BIG DATA: Is it Artificial Intelligence, or Authentic Stupidity?
sylvia is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Maybe you'd better Google yourself and find out if this crazy, grandiloquent, power-mad computer mastermind named Kalev Leetaru has targeted you yet. If not, just wait awhile.
He has posted an entire web page ABOUT ME, and the extent to which I pose a threat to Big Oil, even though all I ever do is sit here quietly, hating Big Oil. He claims I am "associated" with the Dalai Lama, Anderson Cooper, and Beyonce. I love that!
He swears his analysis of more than 10 billion people, places, things, and activities -- connected by over 100 trillion relationships -- enabled him to predict the "Arab Spring," as well as where Osama bin Laden would be found. So I bet he knows where you are!
He intends to learn everything about everybody, so he can forecast the future for his clients. But it only took me two days to find the fatal flaw in his mind-boggling machinations.
Big Data is not just a fact, which is piling up, unstoppably, all around us. It's also one big messy heap of an issue. The business media are filled with articles about how best to use the technologies, what sorts of horizontal and vertical alliances are prudent, how to get your juicy slab of the billions of dollars at stake, and to what extent privacy concerns will constrain the ever-bigger HUGENESS that makes the numbers people so ecstatic.
Having personally been swept up so visibly into the Big Data net, with bizarro-world web pages that are purportedly about ME, I have a different question: Is it artificial intelligence or authentic stupidity?
The ravishing Big Data operation that scrutinized me so intimately (more on that later) got EVERYTHING wrong, and in ways that are very amusing (for me) and should be dismaying to the hundreds of thousands of global clients who rely on all those algorithms. Are they spending billions for terabytes of trash?
BIG BRAINS ARE ON THE CASE
Of course, the biggest corporations and most prominent tech firms have already plunged, quite haphazardly, into the Big Data tsunami. Some had no choice. Others just thought it was cool.The current Big Data market leaders, by revenue, are IBM (NYSE: IBM), Intel (NASDAQ: INTC), and HP (NYSE: HPQ).
Companies at the center of innovation are Teradata (NYSE: TDC), whose primary focus is analyzing data and turning it into actionable intelligence, and EMC (NYSE: EMC), whose storage products help make data scalable and more efficient.
Fujitsu Ltd. and Accenture (NYSE: ACN) are also among the elite, according to Wikibon. The industry's income is expected to rise from over $5 billion this year to $53 billion in 10 years, Wikibon adds.
BIG OIL THINKS I'M SLICK!
I never dreamed that the oil industry would have any interest in me, though, and I'm very touched. It's sad that they're having to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
The innocuously named Carbon Capture Report, created by the aforementioned baby-faced whiz kid Kalev Leetaru, says that I have a "contextual association" with oil.
I am on a list -- headed by Barack Obama, Dow Jones and Moammar Ghadaffi -- of those who influence the present and future of the oil industry. There is a sort of dossier on each of us.
"This page summarizes all known activity of the person Sylvia Kronstadt related to Oil," it says.
The daily report, which was vaingloriously masterminded by Leetaru in 2009, provides data "not as a massive pile of documents, but as higher-order knowledge." It includes geographic intelligence, advanced analytics, interactive timelines, biographical databases (that's where we come in), and so much more.
|Kalev Leetaru looks so earnest and harmless, but he is a high-tech
imperialist whose domain is the entire planet and everything on it.
A RAVENOUS BEAST PROWLS THE PLANET
Leetaru, who is assistant director for Text and Digital Media Analytics at the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (and so much more, as he describes in excruciating detail), explains that his demonically invasive computer system "automatically builds profiles of persons, organizations, news outlets and locations through time, and uses crowd-sourcing techniques to autonomously evaluate available information sources."
According to Forbes magazine, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google, GoGrid, Rackspace, and Slicehost, along with the on-demand analytics solution vendors that support them, make Big Data analytics affordable, even to smaller firms, which had been feeling left out.
A poll conducted on behalf of software giant SAP confirmed that even small and midsized companies are now able to afford "Big Data" analyses.
HE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE
The Carbon Capture Report is representative of the very tiresome Brave New Breed of web-based consulting firms that revels in massive quantification and dazzling jargon. These outfits, like the University HealthSystems Consortium (http://kronstantinople.blogspot.com/p/consortium.html), gain clients by using a sort of stun-gun approach. They portray their data-driven services in such overwhelmingly shining, domineering, all-encompassing terms that one doesn't dare proceed in today's cutthroat world without their assistance.
The Consortium promises to provide “interoperable workflow solutions“ in its “robust array of resources and tools.” Everything, it seems, is part of a “suite” that is comprehensive, exclusive, benchmarked, trademarked, high-impact and integrated. It promises a sheen of order, ease and rationality to institutions that are “at the crest of the wave,” facing “The Threat of Incrementalism.”
THEY'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER
The Carbon Capture Report is cut from the same glittering cloth. The report's website has become "the premiere source of global insight on climate change, carbon capture and sequestration and the energy industry," with about 20 million hits a month, according to Leetaru.
One of Leetaru's pages about me gives a numerical value to my tone ("specially-tuned linguistic algorithms are used"), personalization ("measures the degree to which the writer attempts to bring the reader into the fold as "part of the story") (do I bring you in?) and polarization ("measures the overall 'emotional charge' of a text"), my attention and loyalty, my positivity, negativity and activism ("whether the writer is encouraging the reader to take action"), and my news/social ratio.
It lists famous people whose names are mentioned in articles that also name me, such as Rosie O'Donnell, Robert Redford, The Happy Hooker, Suze Orman, Michael Caine, a hideous meat plant (I'm vegan), Gloria Vanderbilt, Rihanna, Truman Capote (that prankster...I thought he died 28 years ago!), Ed Abbey (he died 26 years ago) and Thoreau (he died in 1862, but I do still love him) (I love all those dead guys, but I'm not "associated" with them) -- a pretty hip posse, I'd say. But why did he exclude my adopted grandson, the darling pop star Bruno Mars? A professor of computer sciences at Duke University, John Reif, implies that Leetaru is jealous of my affection for Bruno.
"His attention to you might reflect an interest or fascination in you (which perhaps is natural, given your online photo)," Dr. Reif explains.
DON'T TAKE BIG DATA'S INTEREST PERSONALLY
That is such a nice thing for the professor to say, but Leetaru has no interest in individuals whatsoever. His interest is in turning humanity into data that can be exploited.
So many other firms have the same mindset these days. Should we care? So far, it just seems a bit pathetic to me, but there are a whole slew of excellent frontal lobes involved in refining the protocol.
Some of the best are working for Oracle, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi's subsidiary, Hitachi Data Systems. Business intelligence specialists Qlik Technologies and Tibco Software are often cited for their quirky inventiveness. The Motley Fool has named Invensense and Infinera as the top two Big Data firms.
The Report claims to have its finger on the pulse of "the remotest hilltop" as well as all those centroid cities.
HERE'S WHERE THE PATHETIC FRAUD BECOMES CLEAR
Meanwhile, back at the Tumbleweed Ranch, I had an exhilarating breakthrough in comprehension about how Leetaru leapt upon my relationship with Big Oil. His ruthless yet nuanced data-mining apparatus, in its painfully "sensitive" crawl through all those "trillions" of documents, must have discovered that I denigrated an "oil" painting of a tumbleweed in one of my blog posts. So obviously, I am someone whom Big Oil needs to monitor! I am scary!
In fact, his summary of my influence specifically refers to that blog entry as "representative" of my attitude. I don't see how he can call that reference representative, since I recommended using "natural aromatic oils" instead of synthetic perfume in another blog post. I have also mentioned the hearty flavor of toasted "sesame oil" for Asian cooking, and my boyfriend's dutiful "oiling" of my weight-training machine. I wrote that a former Miss America told me she used "corn oil" on her skin, and also that nothing except for "Vitamin E oil" soothed my lupus rash.
MY OILINESS IS QUITE WELL DOCUMENTED
I confided that "oil of oregano" and "flaxseed oil" are useful nutritional supplements, and I heartily recommended throwing a mess of greens in a pot with "olive oil" and garlic.
It's obvious why Leetaru's breathtaking, omniscient, insatiable, ever-snooping and supremely discerning high-tech monstrosity decided that I AM A PERSON OF INTEREST TO THE OIL INDUSTRY. And it's obvious that this conclusion is of no value whatsoever to his thousands of Big Oil clients.
It's hard to believe Leetaru's claim that his subscribers include most large energy, environmental, policy, governmental, and environmental financial and legal services firms in the world, as well as venture capitalists, researchers and even private citizens in more than 120 countries.
IT'S NOT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - IT'S AUTHENTIC STUPIDITY
Actually, I'm relieved to learn how fallible are all these stupid efforts to document and pigeonhole humankind. Leetaru does warn his clients, in small print: All results are generated by computer and no guarantees of any kind are provided regarding accuracy or completeness. Duh!
During the past ten years, Leetaru has conceptualized, designed, organized and launched so many provocative, sweepingly PLANETARY ventures that I haven't been able to actually read through his entire resume. Is he a precious young impostor, messing with everyone's minds, or a dangerously talented and power-mad global conquistador?
In his work at the National Institute for Computational Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Leetaru looked at 1,500 dimensions of emotion before deciding that "tone" was the most reliable metric. (Leetaru's behemoth generated another collection of pages about me concerning my relationship with carbon capture and sequestration. It seems quite disapproving of my "tone," even though I have never publicy expressed an opinion. It must have read my mind, though. I think sequestration is dangerous.)
A PRANCING 'ACTION FIGURE' SELLS 'DISAMBIGUATION'
Leetaru is just as savvy at self-promotion as he is at concocting stupendous data-mining schemes.
"The Carbon Capture Report was built for this purpose: to transform news from textual reports to actionable insights that you can use," he proclaims. "Its (sic) like having your very own intelligence analyst at your fingertips, digging through hundreds of billions of pieces of content and making sense of it for you ... a platform that reads through every news article and social media posting, searching for any reference to a person, organization, location, disambiguating based on context, and builds profiles for every one of those entries."
Leetaru's research report -- "Culturomics 2.0: Forecasting Large-Scale Human Behavior Using Global Media Tone in Time and Space” -- was published in the open-access, peer-reviewed electronic journal First Monday, this past September.
“Almost every Fortune 500 company monitors the tone of news and social media coverage about their products,” Leetaru explains. “There’s been a huge amount of research coming out of the business literature on the power of news tone to predict economic behavior."
Indeed, this plundering of our conscious and unconscious patterns into algorithms has revolutionized what corporations know about us and, therefore, how precisely they can target their lures (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?pagewanted=all). In Leetaru's world, the news has little to do with objective facts -- journalists take note -- and everything to do with tone and emotion.
Isn't it paradoxical that Big Data -- which one envisions as coldly objective -- would be based on such subjective criteria?
WE'RE A MOODY BUNCH, BUT HE'S GOT AN APP FOR THAT
Leetaru's First Monday paper involved gathering more than 100 million articles. "Mood detection, or 'automated sentiment mining' searched for words such as 'terrible,' 'horrid,' or 'nice,'" the paper explained.
Doesn't this seem like a rather simplistic -- perhaps even immature -- view of homo sapiens? It sounds like he's got a rather cross British housewife doing his assessments.
His next step is not simply to document the past exhaustively or portray the present in minute detail, but to use his gargantuan apparatus to predict the future.
DIVING RECKLESSLY INTO THE DEEPS OF FORTUNE-TELLING
Exciting! Or is it scary?
"It will be like diving beneath the ocean -- we’ve been so focused on the surface that we’re only just beginning to start exploring the entire new world that’s underneath,” he says ominously.
Kalev claims to have more than twenty global projects under way on news flows and public perception. One involves modeling all global news interactions across all countries in the world over the last several decades, resulting in tens of trillions of connections.
Please stand by. Your information will be parsed and sold in the order in which it was received.
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