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Preview: Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Better living through collaboration and conceptual modeling

Updated: 2017-04-26T09:49:49.001-04:00


Twitter reports first ever revenue decline but beats low bar it set for Q1 earnings thanks to user growth | VentureBeat | Social | by Chris O'Brien


Also see Twitter shares spike 10% after it delivers a much-needed earnings beat (TechCrunch) and Twitter’s total revenue shrinks for the first time as ad revenue decline steepens (Marketing Land)

"Struggling Twitter today reported revenues of $548 million in the first quarter of 2017, a drop of 8 percent from the same period a year ago, marking the first such decline for the platform.

Still, that tops the $512.1 million consensus analyst estimate. The company also reported that Monthly Active Users increased 9 million quarter-over-quarter, reaching 328 million. That’s an increase of 6 percent, a slightly better clip than the 4 percent growth the company reported last quarter."
Twitter reports first ever revenue decline but beats low bar it set for Q1 earnings thanks to user growth | VentureBeat | Social | by Chris O'Brien

Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update review: The future is increasingly uncertain | PCWorld


Final paragraphs from a review subtitled "With so few features, for so few phones, one wonders what the point is."

"In other ecosystems, flagship phones like Samsung’s new Galaxy S8+ sail confidently into stores, riding Android’s overwhelming dominance. Only a catastrophe could doom the Galaxy S8’s success. But even if every review praised Windows 10 Mobile to the skies—and they won’t—its odds of success would be long.

It’s possible that Windows Mobile is indeed dead, but that Microsoft plans to replace it with a true “common core” of Windows running across all devices. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella recently reiterated his vision that Windows isn’t just an OS of a single device, but a “fabric of devices” surrounding you. That sounds revolutionary, but it’s also a phrase he used several years ago, in 2014.

With a market share down in the low single digits, and with a reduced stock of devices to run on, Windows Mobile is the proverbial Schrodinger’s cat: either alive or dead, and no one seems to know for sure. Unfortunately, the anemic Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update doesn’t convince me that Microsoft believes in its future."
Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update review: The future is increasingly uncertain | PCWorld

The inventor of Siri says one day AI will be used to upload and access our memories - Recode


Think different, c2017

"Gruber said he thinks that using artificial intelligence to catalog our experiences and to enhance our memory isn’t just a wild idea — it’s inevitable.

And the whole reason Gruber says it’s possible: Data about the media that we consume and the people we talk to is available because we use the internet and our smartphones to mediate our lives.

Privacy is no small consideration here. “We get to chose what is and is not recalled and retained,” said Gruber. “It’s absolutely essential that this be kept very secure.”

Though the idea of digitally storing our memories certainly raises a host of unsettling possibilities, Gruber says that AI memory enhancement could be a life-changing technology for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia."
The inventor of Siri says one day AI will be used to upload and access our memories - Recode

With Secret Airship, Sergey Brin Also Wants to Fly - Bloomberg


Also see Uber wants to demonstrate its network of flying cars in Dubai and Texas by 2020 (Recode); on a related note, Box CEO Aaron Levie tweeted "That awkward moment when your tech company doesn't have an autonomous aircraft strategy yet."
"Larry Page has his flying cars. Sergey Brin shall have an airship.

Brin, the Google co-founder, has secretly been building a massive airship inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to four people with knowledge of the project. It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business. "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now," Brin wrote in an email.

The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon."
With Secret Airship, Sergey Brin Also Wants to Fly - Bloomberg

Virtual Reality Hits the Gym - Bloomberg


For a review of a (currently) less-VR but similarly expensive exercise option, see My Two-Month Ride with Peloton, the Cultish, Internet-Connected Fitness Bike (The Verge)

"The fitness industry has been trying for decades to make exercise less boring -- from TVs embedded in treadmills to apps nudging users to stay on schedule -- but technology has yet to find a cure for the monotony of working out. Scholl is part of nascent community that believes the addictive pull of video games combined with the immersive power of VR will do the trick.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based VirZOOM Inc. transforms bike machines into VR controllers that let gamers fly horses and drive Formula 1 cars. A Helsinki augmented reality startup overlays digital images onto rock-climbing walls, letting climbers play games or battle each other while ascending. More low-key solutions include home workouts built around VR archery, shooting and boxing games which enthusiasts say help people build upper-body strength and lose weight."
Virtual Reality Hits the Gym - Bloomberg

Our latest quality improvements for Search (Google Keyword blog)


Check the full post for an overview of new tactics; also see Google Rewrites Its Powerful Search Rankings to Bury Fake News (Bloomberg)
"Today, in a world where tens of thousands of pages are coming online every minute of every day, there are new ways that people try to game the system. The most high profile of these issues is the phenomenon of “fake news,” where content on the web has contributed to the spread of blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information. While this problem is different from issues in the past, our goal remains the same—to provide people with access to relevant information from the most reliable sources available. And while we may not always get it right, we’re making good progress in tackling the problem. But in order to have long-term and impactful changes, more structural changes in Search are needed.

With that longer-term effort in mind, today we’re taking the next step toward continuing to surface more high-quality content from the web. This includes improvements in Search ranking, easier ways for people to provide direct feedback, and greater transparency around how Search works."
Our latest quality improvements for Search

Microsoft starts integrating Dynamics 365 with LinkedIn | ZDNet


Also see LinkedIn hits 500M member milestone for its social network for the working world (TechCrunch)
"On April 24, Microsoft officials said the company will be ready to integrate Dynamics 365 for Sales with LinkedIn's Sales Navigator as of July 2017. This integration will help users who have both Dynamics 365 Sales and LinkedIn to get contextual recommendations and provide tailored content, as well as provide account and lead updates.  
Microsoft is making a promotional bundle available that includes Dynamics 365 for Sales, Enterprise Edition, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator Team for $135 per user per month.
Microsoft also announced today a new human resource app called Dynamics 365 for Talent. This app will integrate with LinkedIn Recruiter and provide a consolidated HR profile, spanning Office 365, Dynamics 365, and LinkedIn profiles. The coming app will be available starting in July, officials said."
Microsoft starts integrating Dynamics 365 with LinkedIn | ZDNet

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launches Wikitribune, a large-scale attempt to combat fake news » Nieman Journalism Lab


Check the full article and the Wikitribune site for more details
"So what would happen if you combined professional journalism with fact checking by the people? On Monday evening, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune, an independent site (not affiliated with Wikipedia or the Wikimedia Foundation) “that brings journalists and a community 
of volunteers together” in a combination that Wales hopes will combat fake news online — initially in English, then in other languages.

The site is launching with a crowdfunding campaign to fund the first Wikitribune journalists (the default amount is $10 a month, but users can donate any amount they wish) “with the first issue of Wikitribune following shortly.” The Wikitribune page said that the goal is to hire 10 journalists."
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launches Wikitribune, a large-scale attempt to combat fake news » Nieman Journalism Lab

Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug? - The New York Times


Excerpt from an extensive Facebook reality check; tangentially, see A scholar asks, ‘Can democracy survive the Internet?’ (Washington Post)
"This is not an especially controversial idea; Zuckerberg is arguing for a kind of digital-era version of the global institution-building that the Western world engaged in after World War II. But because he is a chief executive and not an elected president, there is something frightening about his project. He is positioning Facebook — and, considering that he commands absolute voting control of the company, he is positioning himself — as a critical enabler of the next generation of human society. A minor problem with his mission is that it drips with megalomania, albeit of a particularly sincere sort. With his wife, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg has pledged to give away nearly all of his wealth to a variety of charitable causes, including a long-term medical-research project to cure all disease. His desire to take on global social problems through digital connectivity, and specifically through Facebook, feels like part of the same impulse.

Yet Zuckerberg is often blasé about the messiness of the transition between the world we’re in and the one he wants to create through software. Building new “social infrastructure” usually involves tearing older infrastructure down. If you manage the demolition poorly, you might undermine what comes next. In the case of the shattering media landscape, Zuckerberg seems finally to have at least noticed this problem and may yet come up with fixes for it. But in the meantime, Facebook rushes headlong into murky new areas, uncovering new dystopian possibilities at every turn."
Can Facebook Fix Its Own Worst Bug? - The New York Times

Oracle Plans Internal 'Startup' to Outpace Rivals' Innovation - Bloomberg


Because, as Charles Fitzgerald tweeted, "Nothing says cutting edge technology like "Solution". Or putting the "startup inside" the bigco in the sales org..."

"Oracle Corp. is forming a unit it's calling a startup within its U.S. operations to work on new technologies that may include virtual reality and artificial intelligence, trying to attract talent and outpace the innovation of rivals.

The company's effort will include new centers in Reston, Virginia, and Denver for "cutting-edge" products, according to job postings on its website. Oracle is seeking to fill at least 50 positions, which were posted earlier this month for the Solution Engineering Centers. The company, founded 40 years ago, said it's a rare opportunity to get in on the "ground floor of building a truly transformational organization" inside its North American operations, according to job postings."
Oracle Plans Internal 'Startup' to Outpace Rivals' Innovation - Bloomberg

Video Games Help Model Brain’s Neurons - The New York Times


Play different

"But while those games are entertainment designed to grab players by their adrenal glands, Dr. Popović’s latest creation asks players to trace lines over fuzzy images with a computer mouse. It has a slow pace with dreamy music that sounds like the ambient soundtrack inside a New Age bookstore.

The point? To advance neuroscience.

Since November, thousands of people have played the game, “Mozak,” which uses common tricks of the medium — points, leveling up and leader boards that publicly rank the performance of players — to crowdsource the creation of three-dimensional models of neurons."
Video Games Help Model Brain’s Neurons - The New York Times

Service Faces Backlash Over a Widespread Practice: Selling User Data - The New York Times


Disconcerting data dealings

"What does is far from an anomaly — it is part of an expansive and largely unregulated world of selling personal data collected by online consumer services. As long as a service like has a privacy policy, adheres to it and does not sell personally identifiable information, like someone’s name, it is fairly free to package and sell the data it collects.

Yet privacy advocates said the modern technology of data analytics allowed such fine-grained measurement of a person’s online behavior that the concept of personally identifiable information was all but obsolete.

“Many of the services or apps we use for ‘free’ are monetizing data about us,” said Lee Tien, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization focused on digital rights."
Service Faces Backlash Over a Widespread Practice: Selling User Data - The New York Times

Marissa Mayer Will Make $186 Million on Yahoo’s Sale to Verizon - The New York Times


It would be interesting to see how many investment losses and write-downs Yahoo has taken over the last five years; e.g., see How Yahoo derailed Tumblr (Mashable)

"The filing also disclosed that Yahoo invested in Snap, one of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies, buying 2.3 million shares in a March 2015 fund-raising round that priced the shares at $10.86. After a stock split that doubled the number of shares Yahoo owned, Snap went public in March. Snap shares are now trading at $21.20, valuing Yahoo’s stake at $98 million.

Yahoo also owns stakes in Hortonworks, an enterprise software company; Paperless, a digital event invitation service; and SeatGeek, a ticket reselling service. The company valued Excalibur, its portfolio of patents that are up for sale, at $740 million."
Marissa Mayer Will Make $186 Million on Yahoo’s Sale to Verizon - The New York Times

Amazon blazes a trail to the next frontier in AI: the cloud - SiliconANGLE


From an interview with Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of Amazon AI at Amazon Web Services

"Q: Broadly speaking, what are you trying to accomplish here?

A: Our goal is to basically democratize artificial intelligence, to make AI accessible to every developer. To a large extent, even today to build artificial intelligence, it requires in many cases a Ph.D. in machine learning to do a really good job.

We want to enable building new kinds of intelligent applications that can actually do things that humans have been able to do, like being able to see or hear or speak or understand. And we enable businesses and enterprises to make intelligent decisions on top of the data that they have stored in AWS."
Amazon blazes a trail to the next frontier in AI: the cloud - SiliconANGLE

Google Cloud Boss Diane Greene Wants To Be Ahead Of Amazon By 2022 (Forbes)


Earlier in the post: ""I think we have a pretty good shot at being #1 in five years""
"Asked for some examples of where Google was pushing its offerings in artificial intelligence and machine learning, Greene invoked several of the company's acquisitions: DeepMind, acquired in January 2014, and Kaggle, acquired just last month in March 2017. The data science competitions hosted on Kaggle are hoped to give Google an edge, according to Greene, while DeepMind has advanced Google's capabilities in using neural networks to answer questions too abstract or complex for a simple query or regression analysis.

For examples of some of Google's latest work with customers in artificial intelligence, Greene noted projects in insurance, satellite imagery and malware detection. With insurance, the Google executive pointed to AXA, a customer that has been using Google's TensorFlow tools to better predict "large-loss" major traffic accidents. With satellite imaging, she pointed to one of the company's high profile customer wins from October 2016, Airbus, which is using the tools to automatically spot and correct flaws in the images. And in malware detection, she name-dropped SparkCognition, named an AI partner to the company in March 2017 and which offers such detection for Android."
Google Cloud Boss Diane Greene Wants To Be Ahead Of Amazon By 2022

Yahoo's Failure Is a Scary Hint at What's to Come - The Atlantic


From a timely digital advertising reality check

"Print newspapers will continue to fold, but Yahoo’s demise is a signal that web-native companies are next. If you run a business that relies on digital-advertising revenue for an outsized portion of your funding, you need to find new streams of revenue. Now. It may already be too late.

Unless you’re Facebook or Google, that is. Facebook and Google are practically drowning in ad revenue—together they command a huge portion of global digital-ad dollars—and that’s the root of the problem for every other business trying to clamor for a piece of it. The precise estimates vary. One often-repeated stat, based on last year’s financials, is that Facebook and Google account for 85-percent of every new dollar spent on digital advertising."
Yahoo's Failure Is a Scary Hint at What's to Come - The Atlantic

Tensor Processing Unit – Perspectives


Excerpt from a James Hamilton review

"I just read about another excellent example higher-level application acceleration. In fact this best example I’ve seen publicly disclosed so far. The paper “In-Datacenter Performance Analysis of a Tensor Processor Unit” will be presented at the upcoming 44th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) to be held in Toronto Canada June 26, 2017.
In my opinion, this is excellent work, a well-written paper, and a balanced analysis of what they produced and started to deploy back in 2015. It’s the normal practice in our industry to only show that which has already been replaced or is about to be replaced but that’s just the reality of commercial innovation and I do the same thing myself.
What I found most striking is the elegant simplicity of what has been done. It wins over general purpose Intel processors and Nvidia GPGPUs of the same generation by the greater than 10x we would expect and yet, they have kept the part simple and shown good taste in what to include and what not to. The paper uses power/performance as a proxy for the price/performance they know they should be using but since this is commercial innovation, pricing needs to remains confidential."
Tensor Processing Unit – Perspectives

The Electric Car Revolution Tesla Began Faces Its Biggest Test - Bloomberg


Also see Musk Nearing $1.4 Billion Windfall as Tesla Achieves Milestones (Bloomberg)

"When the U.S. incentives begin to expire next year, don’t expect a Georgia-sized collapse in the market. The period of greatest peril is ending for EVs, and the time of greatest promise is beginning. All the top carmakers are investing billions of dollars to electrify their drivetrains, and the smart ones will compete aggressively on pricing in the short-term in order to establish market share for the long haul. Incentives are important, but they won’t define the market for much longer."
The Electric Car Revolution Tesla Began Faces Its Biggest Test - Bloomberg

No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car - The New York Times


Final paragraphs

"“How is this going to work? I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but we can’t even take our cellphones on airplanes today because of fears about battery fires,” said Missy Cummings, the director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University, who is researching personal air transport for NASA.

And don’t forget that flying cars will not be able to pull to the side of the road in an emergency, said John Leonard, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

“Silicon Valley is full of very smart people, but they don’t always get the laws of physics,” he said. “Gravity is a formidable adversary.”"
No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car - The New York Times

We Are Entering the Era of the Brain Machine Interface (Backchannel)


Excerpt from a Steven Levy BMI reality check

"In a 2004 conversation I had with Google’s co-founders, Larry Page was talking about his vision for the future of search. “Eventually you’ll have the implant,” he told me, “where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.” The remark became notorious, used frequently by reporters and cultural critics as evidence that the ambitions of Google’s founders — and indeed of Silicon Valley in general — would not stop short of a scenario where our very consciousness is plugged into some commercial enterprise’s operating system. The only consolation for those horrified commentators was that the concept was outlandish and impractical, safely consigned to the realm of science fiction.
No more. Last week at Facebook’s F8 conference, former DARPA head Regina Dugan, who leads its research group called Building 8, revealed that Facebook was working on a Brain Machine Interface (BMI) project. Yes, Facebook, whose goal is to connect everyone in the world to its network, now is exploring how to navigate the ultimate last mile problem — the gap between your brain and the keyboard. And for good measure Dugan talked about her group’s work on a second project that could eliminate the screen by communicating text messages through your skin."
We Are Entering the Era of the Brain Machine Interface

Elon Musk has a crazy plan for beating artificial intelligence (Mashable)


In case you don't have time yet to read the full ~37,000-word Wait But Why post; also see Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants to turn cloud-based AI into an extension of our brains (TechCrunch)

"The short-term goal is just a way to fund the long-term goal, and this is where things start to get really interesting. Musk and his think-tank do not have everything figured out just yet, but the general idea is to advance the neural implant tech while they wait until laws and regulations let them actually implant something into a healthy person's brain. Ultimately, implants would allow for "uncompressed" communication between people, with the compression part being language. So instead of translating your thoughts into language, you can upload them directly to another person's brain, which would increase communication speed by orders of magnitude. 

This could go in (essentially) two directions: Melding brain with machine, like an artificial intelligence. Or, (and this appears to be Musk's primary focus) vastly increasing communication speed between humans, which would allow the human race to keep up with the advent of super-powerful artificial intelligence (which Musk seems to think is inevitable or at least very probable). 

This will also have vast implications on basically everything we do and everything we are. Reading someone's thoughts instantaneously could turn humanity into one giant brain, which in turn could immeasurably speed up progress of the human race, and so forth."
Elon Musk has a crazy plan for beating artificial intelligence

Why it matters that Google Home can now identify you by voice - The Washington Post


Home security

"That is a feature that Amazon's Echo doesn't have. And it's important for a voice assistant designed to run your household. For an assistant such as Siri, which lives on devices used by just one person, multi-account support isn't as important. But home hubs sit in a central location and operate such things as your lights or your thermostat, which everyone will want to be able to control.

Being able to identify an individual's voice may also help cut down on some unwanted surprises. Google said in a statement that the new feature makes it so that “only you would be able to shop via Google Home.” So others — i.e., your children or an intelligent parrot — shouldn't be able to tell Home to buy something on your account. That avoids instances like one in San Diego in January when Amazon Echo units started ordering dollhouses after hearing a news anchor on television repeat what a girl had said when she had ordered a dollhouse and some cookies. The anchor was reporting on a story about — what else? — a child buying something without permission on the Echo."
Why it matters that Google Home can now identify you by voice - The Washington Post

Virtual Reality Companies Navigate ‘The Trough of Disillusionment’ - Bloomberg


Maybe we should just wait until Neuralink adds full input/output capabilities...

"As disappointment is setting in for virtual reality, expectations are building around its less glamorous cousin, augmented reality, which is also sometimes called mixed reality because it places digitally-rendered elements in the real observed environment. In 2016, Pokemon Go, which is an augmented reality game played on smartphones, became a worldwide phenomenon. Microsoft launched its high-end AR headset, HoloLens, which has found customers mostly among industrial and business users -- such as aeronautical engineers and architects. Snap Inc.'s AR photo filters are one of the most popular features of its messaging service and Facebook has announced a big push into the field with its own AR camera filters.  Many now expect Apple Inc. to introduce an augmented reality product in the next year, which might help AR to leapfrog VR to achieve mass adoption.

"Apple has not made a play yet in this space and I think they will and that it will be huge," said ARiVR's Gallop."
Virtual Reality Companies Navigate ‘The Trough of Disillusionment’ - Bloomberg

Tesla app update lets Powerwall owners keep an eye on their electricity - The Verge


One powerful app...

"The new app lets customers monitor all their Tesla products including the Model S and Model X vehicles, Powerwall, and solar panels. Real-time data on solar power generation, battery power flow, and household energy consumption are displayed. The app can also notify customers of a power grid outage and share info about current Powerwall status and that the battery has kicked in to keep the home powered up.

In the event of an anticipated power outage, either planned or because of possible bad weather, Powerwall owners can also adjust the amount of power stored by their home battery pack."
Tesla app update lets Powerwall owners keep an eye on their electricity - The Verge

Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future - Wait But Why


From the intro of another epic Wait But Why post

"When I wrote about Tesla and SpaceX, I learned that you can only fully wrap your head around certain companies by zooming both way, way in and way, way out. In, on the technical challenges facing the engineers, out on the existential challenges facing our species. In on a snapshot of the world right now, out on the big story of how we got to this moment and what our far future could look like.

Not only is Elon’s new venture—Neuralink—the same type of deal, but six weeks after first learning about the company, I’m convinced that it somehow manages to eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission. The other two companies aim to redefine what future humans will do—Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be.

The mind-bending bigness of Neuralink’s mission, combined with the labyrinth of impossible complexity that is the human brain, made this the hardest set of concepts yet to fully wrap my head around—but it also made it the most exhilarating when, with enough time spent zoomed on both ends, it all finally clicked. I feel like I took a time machine to the future, and I’m here to tell you that it’s even weirder than we expect."
Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future - Wait But Why