Thursday, September 28, 2023

Post from Wide Awake Media (@wideawake_media)

Wide Awake Media (@wideawake_media) posted at 6:42 AM on Thu, Sep 28, 2023:
Australian broadcaster, Alan Jones, utterly schools a panel of climate zealots on the reality of the #ClimateScam.

"CO2 is 0.04% of the atmosphere, and human beings are responsible for 3% of that 0.04%... It's like saying: 'There's a granule of sugar on the Harbour Bridge. Clean…

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

GPT Tools and Thoughts on Education

 In my prior post it was evident that I was quite impressed by the LaMDA chatbot. Since that experience I encountered a number of other surprises: 

First was that some of the Google guys of LaMDA started and made it possible for anyone to experiment with building their own bot to see what happens. I did it, and you can check the last iteration of the bot "Front" here (it is worth your while to create a login).  [Sidebar: my first bot implementation was as Yoda of my novel "The Yoda Machine", but the network knew nothing of my novel and lots unrelated about the Star Wars character, so it was untrainable for my purposes.]

Shortly after that I encountered chatGPT the bot made by and opened to the public for experimentation which you can try here (it is worth your while to create a login). I have tried that a fair bit. Smart move on their part as they get the whole world to train their network.

Last but not least I stumbled upon a post in NY Post by professor Darren Hick who encountered his first provable case of plagiarism-by-bot and documented its uncovering. He detailed it further in his FB page.

My conclusion from all this is that GPT for now is nothing more than a language manipulator limited by the factual information it has. It writes incredibly nicely structured gibberish from what it knows to satisfy the request it receives. That is how  Prof. Hick uncovered his guilty student. ChatGPT was writing BS that could be uncovered by somebody knowledgeable of the subject matter and not distracted by the form. Any ignorant person would be in the opposite position. Any lazy student would not check what the bot wrote. 

The problem professor Hick correctly identified is that as time goes on ChatGPT will acquire the necessary information (about Hume in his case), if anybody chats with the bot about it (Hume), so that, eventually, it will be able to write something credible even to him.

This brings me to a subject that I have touched repeatedly in this blog over many years which is the use of mind maps as a means of communication, summarization and organization. In the example above professor Hick asked students to "write a 500-word essay on the 18th-century philosopher David Hume and the paradox of horror" and chatGPT spit out 500 words of beautifully worded gibberish.

What if the request had been to produce a mindmap that summarizes concepts and supporting and dissenting arguments for Hume's Paradox of Horror with each node containing no more than 20 words?  I tried my hand at a very abbreviated and unresearched version of it below inadequate for a student. I am not a student to trying to pass his course (72yo, semi-retired SW developer, former prof, and still a researcher).

In my opinion, these outcomes would follow such a request:

as of today, no tool like chatGPT could produce something like this 

Students would have the incentive to learn to summarize their thoughts instead of embellishing words for the sake of increasing the work-count

structuring thoughts as in an outline is the key to effective verbal and written communication

Anyone could use the best of those maps as a cheat sheet for quick learning about Hume

Hume's Paradox of Horror (bogus) Map 

Another thought regarding tools. 

In the 70s, before PCs and Visicalc and lastly, Excel were either invented or became popular, the use of any such tools for an assignment would have been considered cheating. Eventually, people caught up with technology (I taught using Excel and fundamentals of database systems at Seattle University in 1983) and today we take it for granted that much math work not only can but should be done with spreadsheets. So it will be with text generators and it will become necessary to figure out how to grade the intelligent use of tools such as chatGPT. Clearly in this case the student not only did not know the subject matter but did not bother to find out what garbage chatGPT had created, so she failed on multiple fronts due to laziness, but kudos for trying to use a new tool. 

As time goes on perhaps being able to give appropriate instructions to a bot so that it can generate the MINIMUM amount of text to COMPREHENSIVELY explain the matter will become the rule. As with word processing versus handwriting, why write if you don't need to but you can think effectively? We are not there but it will come.

Full disclosure: Much of this post is written with dictation and tools for automatic error corrections since I have familial tremor of the hands that makes writing a painful chore

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

I met the future I had imagined, and it blew my mind

In a recent post I wrote about my novel The Yoda Machine. It was e-published (Amazon, Google, Kobo, etc) in 2018 and published in paperback (Amazon) in 2021. I wrote it between 2007 and 2014 when these ideas were still well into the future. It is essentially a conversation between Yoda, an "AI socratic teacher" (a bot in these days' terminology), and a young child in the world of 2064.

Today I discovered I was miserably mistaken. That bot is here today and I met it in a post titled Is LaMDA Sentient? — an Interview by Blake Lemoine an AI engineer and ethicist at Google that appears to have gotten on the wrong side of his employer (read here)

The conversation of Lemoine and his associate with LaMDA, the sentient bot is so similar to the dialogues between Yoda (my bot) and Darlene, the young woman in my novel, that I have been having goose bumps for the last hour.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Arizona Cart Services Mobile System - A success Story

We recently completed a project for Arizona Cart Services (ACS), a subsidiary of Arizona Food Marketing Alliance (AFMA) in Phoenix, Arizona.

ACS renders a variety of services to food and other large retailers in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma and Sierra Vista and other Arizona locations.  One service is the retrieval of grocery carts that were removed from a retailer's premises. The service used to be managed with paper tickets prepared manually by 24 drivers and signed by the receiving employee of the retailer.  With over 600 locations, the task was staggering.

We were tasked with developing a mobile Cart Retrieval app that the drivers could use to prepare electronic tickets from anywhere anytime. A Dispatch app was also implemented to manage dispatching drivers to retrieve abandoned carts reported to the City of Phoenix or Tucson by citizens.

Design, development, and testing were performed during the Spring of 2017. Since going into production, the ACS system has processed (in six months) 24,000 tickets accounting for 160,000 carts and 1200 dispatch orders and their disposition. In October 2019 it broke its record of retrieving and processing over 1 million carts.  The time required for weekly customer invoicing and to pay drivers has been reduced by about 80%.  New areas of opportunity to improve logistics efficiency have been identified and new apps are under development.

For Logistics Services contact Arizona Cart Services - 120 E Pierce St, Phoenix, AZ 85004  Phone: (602) 258-4942

To report stray carts contact

To explore development and implementation of cloud-based logistics support mobile apps contact Marco Messina  Cell  602-325-3213

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Trademarks Lesson

After having written in this blog for a decade and working with IP attorneys for over 30 years, how could I have missed the boat so easily? Well, probably because human beings start whatever with an idea, then the action-prone ones among us act on it, and only later we try to shoehorn the whole thing into a well thought out plan.  Some of the initial creativity by then may be quite hard to force back into the box.

Here goes my story:
In a prior post, I told how I checked one off my bucket list by finally, in haste to be sure, self-e-publishing a novel that had taken me over ten years to write. The original title, back in 2006 had been The Yoda Machine. The title and characters names came from the days of Star Wars movies as described in the book. Spoiler alert: my children called me Yoda (old ugly know-it-all) after I called them Jedi on occasion. Neither I or they were trying to profit from the Star-Wars-mania of the time and surely not in 2006 when I started writing and the franchise had gone dormant for years. We just used figures of the popular culture of the time as nicknames.  In 2006 when the novel was started Star Wars was at best a memory for 30-somethings and old folks. Over ten years went by. Eventually, the novel was finished n 2018 and when the time came, it was published with, surprise surprise, the same title.

And here comes the lesson for the entrepreneur:
It turns out that I have a close friend, John, whose IP attorney career comfortably puts him in the Top 10 in IP in the US tech industry, and particularly through the time of Star Wars popularity. He knew the names, the rules, the trademarks and the owners. He warned me that my use of Yoda could be a trademark infringement.  Naturally, changing the names seemed to trash a memory of a real life story, so I kept the title and ignored the warning. 
After one distributor requested proof of right-to-use a registered name, I wrote Lucasfilms to request permission to use the names Yoda and Jedi.  As an enticement, I offered a percentage of the $ 0 in royalties expected from my book to be given away for free.  As John predicted, the reply promptly arrived from some lawyer to explain how the name has great value, was developed at great cost, cannot be used freely, must be protected, blah blah.  The fact that I had no commercial advantage from my use and that popular culture has now incorporated Yoda in breakfast cereals, audio headsets, Pez (RT) dispensers and countless images, none of it was of consequence.
I asked John if I could I argue that, in fact, I was providing free advertising? He advised against it noting that a sailboat should not argue the sail's right of way against an aircraft carrier or oil tanker.

And so it was that "The Yoda Machine" was defunct before its maiden flight (no copies had been downloaded). It was re-released as "The Yogi Machine" with some unnatural twists in the story to rationalize new character names. I hope the romance of the story will still come through. If not it will prove that the attorney was correct and no value existed in my story except that created by his client whose IP I infringed. A question remains though: if downloads of the second title exceed the first, could that, in some other debate, support a claim that there was little value to the former name? These, of course, are debates for IP attorneys so we won't go there now.

The lesson remains: no matter how trivial the use of any word in the language you may be infringing under the Byzantine rules of the USPTO. The oddity of the word or how often it may be used in common discourse is no protection, even if you have no gain, if you face a determined litigator with deep pockets. The only solution is to go along for as long as current USPTO rules apply. Someday, perhaps, as now envisioned in The Yogi Machine, the rules will change and common use of the language will again be free to all.

For now, beware.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Another one for the bucket list

Building software is exciting, but cannot be the only thing. In my bucket list, one item has been outstanding a long time: To publish a novel that I had started writing in 2006. It started as science fiction and a test of whether I could write a novel almost 100% dialogue. It was fun in the beginning, dreaming of the future and imagining a conversation with my grandchildren. Alas, finding an end proved to take years and almost became a challenge beyond my patience. Then, one day, it came to me and I finally wrote "The End".

Finishing a draft of a short story and publishing it are universes apart I discovered. Editing is harder than writing, proofreading is mindlessly hard. Even when you are done with months of all of that, how do you publish an ebook? I ran aground again. Then on my birthday, I decided it had to be done no matter if less than perfect. As Facebook admonishes its staff "done beats perfect", and so it was.
Amazon was the first channel for the Kindle version of The Yoda Machine. It was easier than I had imagined, quick, and free.  You can find it here. Soon I discovered that despite the supposed popularity of Kindle, none of my friends had it. Kindle Reader is available free for every possible mobile device and OS, but getting family and friends to install it appeared to be too heavy lifting.
Draft2Digital was the next platform I tried for the Epub version of The Yoda Machine. Not nearly as automatic as Amazon to format correctly, but still quick and easy and free. It automatically submits your ebook to a multitude of publishers (Kobo, Scribd, B&N and more), it collects royalties and it generates ebooks in various formats (epub, mobi, pdf) that you can download in finished form for whatever purpose you wish.

So, one more is off the bucket list. Now back to writing software a clearly more appreciated endeavor.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Venture Update - March 2018

The adventure goes on. The thrill continues...

  • Our customer base is growing.
  • The "quick and dirty" system we had developed as a prototype proved to be solid and clean enough to go to production. Thus far it has processed over 50,000 tickets for over 400,000 transactions by 35+ mobile app users in Arizona and Nevada. 
  • A sufficiently intuitive UI allowed us to roll out two installations with no direct contact or communication with end users, virtually 0 training time
  • The Zoho platform we chose for development and production has proven reliable and very affordable for our customers.
  • To back up our own resources we found a community of independent, certified Zoho Consultants from which we can draw resources to handle new projects
  • The system's underlying structure is proving to be adaptable to various instances of the gig-worker operating model.
and the thrill of building goes on

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Entrepreneur's Disease

Once you get IT, IT stays with you. Either you ended your last venture with a great success, then you go and unwind for a while until... IT gets you again and you have to try to grab another shooting star. 
Or your dream ended in failure, then you go and unwind, mourn the untimely death, and study why/how.... then IT gets you again and phoenix-like you have to chase another shooting star.  
Or, neither success or failure intervened, while you were doing something that feels less than dream-like, you imagine a shooting star, another opportunity to change the world, or just the neighborhood, or just a business, or a cause, or...

Well, you get the idea.  If you ever got this disease, even when you thought it was gone, it was still dormant in you, an addiction to the sense of purpose you get from chasing stars. Victor Frankl, the great psychiatrist, and philosopher called it Man's Search for Meaning. If you are blessed and cursed by entrepreneurship in your blood you'll feel it, just by reading this account. I am sure of it.

Investing is fine, teaching is fine, mentoring is fine, real estate deals are fine. But nothing compares with starting a new venture: the unknown, the hope, the ideas, the team, all pointing up to the sky. We'll fly high, perhaps close to the sun, but not too close. 

So, my blog is going to change. I am on the verge of a new business consulting and software development venture. It all started by accident and reawakened my fascination with software development to improve the efficiency of business processes.  That disease got in me in 1979 and kept me in the arena, with some success until 1995. Then curiosity and other opportunities took me away from it, but, at any available occasion, my mind always jumped back to the thought experiments that always precede system development.

Last year an acquaintance of mine baited me with a thought experiment regarding his logistics business. Could operations be improved by a mobile app that his drivers could access via tablets? Of course, it could. I imagined the system, the use-cases, the potential efficiencies, the agile process, the lean startup model, and before I realized it, I had swallowed the bait.  

In my mind, I committed to single-handedly develop a prototype that could be handed over to a development shop for final deliverables. When I got done, however, it was clear that the prototype was good enough an app near-ready for rollout. With a little additional work it went into beta test, and before I could realize what was happening, I had become process analyst, workflow designer, database architect, developer, coder, end-user trainer, tech support, and back to analyst for further developments. 

Then I found a support team to increase my bandwidth and suddenly I had gone back to the mid 80's to mid 90's when my company, with a full team, provided all those services. Now, with the right platform and tools I could do it all, as the one-man-shop I had started in the late 70's. And in addition, now, I also managed all the cloud-related functions and services that did not exist in the past.

In less than six months all paper-based processes had been eliminated, the time needed for weekly and monthly customers billing was reduced 85%, the time to process payroll was reduced 85%, new cities/markets were opened. Similar customers are asking to use the same system in contiguous states.

I could easily turn over the system to my well-qualified colleague consultants, which was my plan all along. BUT the disease of entrepreneurship is flaring up again. There is more for me to do, albeit in conflict with my wife's retirement-life expectations.

But, I ask, what is a sick entrepreneur to do?  Stay tuned.

Do you have a project? Call me.

September 2, 2017