Crowded cloud: Microsoft

20. July 2017

Date: 20-07-2017
Source: The Economist

Today the world’s largest software company reports earnings for the second quarter. Its share price is at an all-time high, elevated by expectations that the chief executive, Satya Nadella, will continue to transform the company and develop new business lines.

Mr Nadella, who is enthusiastic about artificial intelligence (AI), wants Microsoft to become an “AI-first” firm. He has pumped more time and money into Azure, its cloud-computing business, hopeful that it will account for much of the firm’s future growth.

But the company faces stiff competition from deep-pocketed rivals, such as Amazon and Google. Jefferies, an investment bank, reckons Azure will chalk up around $5bn in sales in 2017, or 21% of the market—an impressive sum but far less than Amazon Web Services, with 71%. Investors will be looking for clues as to how much new cloud business Microsoft has won. When expectations are great, even good results can disappoint.

What will business technology look like tomorrow?

13. July 2017

Date: 13-07-2017
Source: The Economist
Subject: A new way to work

Two experts from MIT analyse the business implications of our digital future

Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing our Digital Future. By Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. W.W. Norton; 402 pages; $28.95 and £22.99.

IN 2014 Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published “The Second Machine Age”. The book was a balanced portrait of how new digital technologies were poised to improve society, even as they increased unemployment and depressed wages. In their latest work, “Machine, Platform, Crowd”, the authors seek to explain the business implications behind these developments.

Mr McAfee and Mr Brynjolfsson believe that the latest phase of computers and the internet have created three shifts in how work happens. The first is artificial intelligence (AI): a move from man to machine. In the past people worked with computers and, at the same time, were augmented by them: what the authors call the “standard partnership”. But that model is breaking down as computers improve and take more control.

You need only look at self-driving cars, online language translation and Amazon’s prototype cashierless shops to see that something big is happening. Digital technologies used to be applied to information—first numbers and text, and, later, music and video. Now, the digital technologies are invading the physical world.

For instance, designing a “heat exchanger”, a part in appliances like refrigerators, means balancing many different specifications and constraints. Humans settle for one that works well enough because to find the optimal one is too hard. But new “generative design” means AI-infused software can run zillions of tiny permutations to find the best possible design—one that a human might not come up with. And with 3D printing, those designs might be shared, modified and manufactured anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

How AI Is Transforming the Workplace

13. March 2017

Date: 13-03-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Artificial intelligence is changing the way managers do their job—from who gets hired to how they’re evaluated to who gets promoted

The growing use of AI in the workplace raises many questions. Among them: Is it too intrusive?

Move over, managers, there’s a new boss in the office: artificial intelligence.

The same technology that enables a navigation app to find the most efficient route to your destination or lets an online store recommend products based on past purchases is on the verge of transforming the office—promising to remake how we look for job candidates, get the most out of workers and keep our best workers on the job. Read the rest of this entry »

The HR Person at Your Next Job May Actually Be a Bot

3. August 2016

Date: 03-08-2016
Source: Technology Review

Chatbots are being prepped to take over many administrative tasks.

The next time you’re hired, you might find yourself getting information about payroll, vacations, and expenses by talking to a chatbot instead of consulting a handbook for new employees or talking to someone in HR.

A startup called Talla, based in Boston, is working on chatbots designed to help new workers get up to speed and be more productive. The company is using advanced machine learning and natural language processing techniques in an effort to create software that is smarter than the average bot. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future of Computing

30. June 2016
Photo of Bruno Michel

Bruno Michel

Bruno Michel is a scientist at IBM Research – Zurich.

JUN 30, 2016, Project Syndicate

ZURICH – Ever since the American computer scientist John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” in 1955, the public has imagined a future of sentient computers and robots that think and act like humans. But while such a future may indeed arrive, it remains, for the moment, a distant prospect.

And yet the foreseeable frontier of computing is no less exciting. We have entered what we at IBM call the Cognitive Era. Breakthroughs in computing are enhancing our ability to make sense of large bodies of data, providing guidance in some of the world’s most important decisions, and potentially revolutionizing entire industries.

The term “cognitive computing” refers to systems that, rather than being explicitly programmed, are built to learn from their experiences. By extracting useful information from unstructured data, these systems accelerate the information age, helping their users with a broad range of tasks, from identifying unique market opportunities to discovering new treatments for diseases to crafting creative solutions for cities, companies, and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Conclusion: Answering the machinery question

26. June 2016

Date: 23-06-2016
Source: The Economist

Glimpses of an AI-enabled future

THE ORIGINAL MACHINERY question, which had seemed so vital and urgent, eventually resolved itself. Despite the fears expressed by David Ricardo, among others, that “substitution of machinery for human labour…may render the population redundant”, the overall effect of mechanisation turned out to be job creation on an unprecedented scale. Machines allowed individual workers to produce more, reducing the price of many goods, increasing demand and generating a need for more workers. Entirely new jobs were created to oversee the machines. As companies got bigger, they required managers, accountants and other support staff. And whole new and hitherto unimagined industries sprang up with the arrival of the railways, telegraphy and electrification.

To be sure, all this took time. Industrialisation caused pervasive labour-market upheaval as some jobs vanished, others changed beyond recognition and totally new ones emerged. Conditions in factories were grim, and it took several decades before economic growth was reflected in significant wage gains for workers—a delay known as “Engels’ pause”.

Worries about unemployment gave way to a much wider argument about employment conditions, fuelling the rise of socialist and communist ideas and creating the modern labour movement. By the end of the 19th century the machinery question had faded away, because the answer was so obvious. In 1896 Arthur Hadley, an American economist, articulated the view of the time when he observed that rather than destroying jobs, mechanisation had brought about “a conspicuous increase of employment in those lines where improvements in machinery have been greatest”. Read the rest of this entry »

Artificial intelligence: ‘Homo sapiens will be split into a handful of gods and the rest of us’

9. November 2015

Date: 09-11-2015
Source: The Guardian
A new report suggests that the marriage of AI and robotics could replace so many jobs that the era of mass employment could come to an end

If you wanted relief from stories about tyre factories and steel plants closing, you could try relaxing with a new 300-page report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch which looks at the likely effects of a robot revolution.

But you might not end up reassured. Though it promises robot carers for an ageing population, it also forecasts huge numbers of jobs being wiped out: up to 35% of all workers in the UK and 47% of those in the US, including white-collar jobs, seeing their livelihoods taken away by machines. Read the rest of this entry »