Monday, June 18th, 2018
The Natural Stupidity of Artificial Intelligence
A. Michael Noll
June 17, 2018
© Copyright 2018 AMN
Clearly, the future is coming, but at times we seem mostly to be chasing the past. Artificial intelligence is today’s “new” rage. But I think it is mostly hype and faith, coupled with a blind, and perhaps deliberate, ignorance of what was done decades ago.
In the 1960’s, digital computers were programmed and used at Bell Telephone Laboratories (Bell Labs) to “compose” music. Today the same algorithmic approach is called artificial intelligence. Digital computers were also programmed in the early 1960s at Bell Labs to create art. And today this too is called artificial intelligence. Back then decades ago, the intelligence was the human who wrote the program and also the human who chose which computer-generated music and art was most liked.
A modern jetliner can fly itself. But is this artificial intelligence, or simply computer control following algorithms? The human pilots are just there to take over in case of an emergency.
What is “artificial intelligence?” “Artificial” means false, fake, not natural. “Intelligence” is the ability to process information and then to perform appropriate actions. It seems to imply some sort of innate human ability. Clearly, a machine is not human and thus cannot possess human qualities, such as intelligence. The “intelligence” of a machine consists of programmed algorithms that the machine carries out. It is not a human quality – it is fake.
I am reminded of decades ago when we were told that the human brain was like a digital computer, and that neurons rather than bits were involved. Well, this theory went nowhere and the human brain is still much of a mystery. There was decades ago the computer program ELIZA created by Joseph Weizenbaum that could act as a psychotherapist.* Weizenbaum explored in his book the human fascination with autonomous machines. – and this was over four decades ago. I expressed concern in 1961 about computers that could learn and act.**
Today there clearly is considerable hype and publicity being given to artificial intelligence. It promises much, but seems mostly to attract investors and big companies that hope to cash in on it all (or the next “new” thing). The ignorance of what went on in the past, coupled with the lust of greed, is the natural stupidity of artificial intelligence.
* Joseph Weizenbaum, Computer Power and Human Reason, W. H. Freeman and Company (New York), 1976.
** A. Michael Noll, “Electronic Computer – Friend or Foe?” the Orbit, Vol. 5, No.3 (March 1961), Newark College of Engineering, pp. 8 & 16.
Monday, May 21st, 2018
The Innovation Garden
A. Michael Noll
May 20, 2018
© Copyright 2018 AMN
Long before Silicon Valley invaded California, there was an “Innovation Garden” flourishing in New Jersey. Which easily qualified as the Invention State.
Thomas A. Edison and his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey cemented New Jersey’s role in innovation. Many smaller manufactures of electrical equipment became located in New Jersey, all wit their on innovations. RCA Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey was formed in 1942 and a host of inventions resulted, including color television.
One of the more famous R&D facilities in New Jersey was Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc. (Bell Labs). The freedom to take risk, coupled with a proximity to practical problems, characterized Bell Labs. These factors are today associated with Silicon Valley, but were present decades before at Bell Labs and the other R&D facilities located in New Jersey. The very “silicon” in Silicon Valley came from William Shockley, one of the inventors of the transistor at Bell Labs who later went to California.
New Jersey is known as the Garden State, but it also should be credited as being an early “Innovation Garden.”
The story of Bell Labs, from my personal perspectives, can be downloaded at: http://quello.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Memories-Noll.pdf
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018
AT&T’s Tarnished Brand
A. Michael Noll
May 16, 2018
© Copyright 2018 AMN
The payment by AT&T of over $1/2 million to President Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen has tarnished AT&T’s reputation and brand. It also raises concerns about the wisdom and competence of AT&T’s senior management.
Decades ago, the AT&T brand meant a lot to most consumers in the United States. AT&T owned the Bell System, which supplied telecommunication service as a regulated monopoly. In those old days, AT&T took its responsibility to the public strongly to supply quality service at affordable prices. However, AT&T was broken up and went through various divestitures, until in 2005, what was left of AT&T was acquired by Southwestern Bell. In effect, Southwestern Bell, a former Bell telephone company, cloaked itself in the AT&T identity (its former parent). And now the AT&T brand has been tarnished, as it has been revealed that AT&T paid over a $1/2 million to Michael Cohen, virtually as a gift, with no real work expected or received.
The two large remaining Baby Bells today are AT&T and Verizon, and they usually act in concert. If AT&T paid off Cohen and Verizon did not, a plausible explanation is that AT&T clearly was hoping that Cohen would exert influence to obtain government approval of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner.
The proposed acquisition of Time Warner by ATT is fraught with questions. Would this acquisition create far too much control over content and the network conduit? Would it be too much vertical integration with no benefit to consumers? What does AT&T know about the entertainment business, other than that its antics certainty seem entertaining?
A. Michael Noll is a retired professor emeritus of communications. His earlier opinion of the AT&T proposed acquisition of Time Warner is at: http://quello.msu.edu/att-goes-hollywood/
Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
THE QUELLO CENTER PRESENTS
INTERNET PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE
BY VINTON CERF
THURSDAY, MAY 10TH @ 3:30 PM // COMM ARTS RM. 147
The Internet grew out of a successful US Defense Department experiment in packet switching and became a platform upon which a wide range of new applications have evolved. New technologies such as smart phones have reinforced the utility of the Internet by spreading access to it at increasing bandwidths and geographic scope. The Internet is estimated to have reached about 50% of the world’s population. As this decade comes to a close, what challenges remain and what new ideas may be pursued? Security, safety, reliability, misinformation, botnets, privacy, and a host of other concerns clamor for attention. Powerful machine learning tools and collaborative technologies are increasing our capacity to solve problems and ask new and challenging questions.
This talk raises questions and poses problems that need attention if we are to make of the Internet the tool it has the capacity to become.
Vinton G. Cerf is vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google. He contributes to global policy development and continued spread of the Internet. Widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf is the co-designer of the TCP/IP protocols and the architecture of the Internet. He has served in executive positions at MCI, the Corporation for National Research Initiatives and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and on the faculty of Stanford University.
Vint Cerf served as chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from 2000-2007 and has been a Visiting Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1998. Cerf served as founding president of the Internet Society (ISOC) from 1992-1995. Cerf is a Foreign Member of the British Royal Society and Swedish Academy of Engineering, and Fellow of IEEE, ACM, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Engineering Consortium, the Computer History Museum, the British Computer Society, the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, the Worshipful Company of Stationers and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He has served as President of the Association for Computing Machinery, chairman of the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and completed a term as Chairman of the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology for the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. President Obama appointed him to the National Science Board in 2012.
Cerf is a recipient of numerous awards and commendations in connection with his work on the Internet, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, US National Medal of Technology, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the Prince of Asturias Award, the Tunisian National Medal of Science, the Japan Prize, the Charles Stark Draper award, the ACM Turing Award, Officer of the Legion d’Honneur and 29 honorary degrees. In December 1994, People magazine identified Cerf as one of that year’s “25 Most Intriguing People.”
His personal interests include fine wine, gourmet cooking and science fiction. Cerf and his wife, Sigrid, were married in 1966 and have two sons, David and Bennett.
Thursday, April 26th, 2018
Smart Devices – Foolish Users
A. Michael Noll
April 26, 2018
© Copyright 2018 AMN
It seems we have become slaves to our computers and smart phones, with near constant updating, synching, and battery recharging. The devices might be considered “smart,” but the users seem to be “foolish” and perhaps even “stupid.”
We are slaves to these devices. We need to feed them electricity to keep them charged, and groom them with updates. They disturb us with interruptions and demands for our attention. We become mesmerized and perhaps hypnotized by what they display to us on their screens.
We discover that their real owners are the suppliers of information, such as Facebook, Google, and the “cloud.” We willingly give over our most intimate personal information, and then seem surprised when it is misused.
They will evolve, we are told, with artificial intelligence into even smarter devices. We will be left wondering whether their artificial intelligence should be contrasted with our apparent natural stupidity. But the myth of the coming artificial intelligence is nothing new – we have been waiting for decades for the dawn of this new age. For me, I am not smart enough for a smart phone, but if I had one, I would put it away in a drawer — and forget it. It could then linger in its “smartness,” while I have my own life to enjoy without interruption and caring for its upkeep.
Sunday, April 1st, 2018
Governor Snyder recently announced the formation of the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks. This consortium is designed to ‘identify gaps in broadband service coverage and capacity, current efforts underway to address connectivity issues, and key strategies and recommendations for the State of Michigan and the private sector to pursue to achieve enhanced connectivity’. The Consortium is housed within the Executive Office and serves in an advisory capacity to the Governor. It is charged with providing a roadmap for statewide access and adoption by August 1, 2018.
Bibi recently presented at a forum on broadband divides, organized by MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) demonstrating the expertise and research base that will bring added value to this subgroup and the Consortium as a whole.
Sunday, December 17th, 2017
DISNEY BUYS MURDOCH
A. Michael Noll
December 16, 2017
© Copyright 2017 AMN
Walt Disney is purchasing Murdoch’s entertainment empire for over $50 billion. Is this a great deal – or a huge challenge for the future of Disney?
The vision is a future in which video entertainment (and sports) is downloaded over the Internet directly from the source, bypassing the middle distributors, such as the cable TV company, the satellite company, or the phone company. This vision has been known as cable bypass. But it assumes an Internet that is “free.”
Disney, and its Bob Eger, should be frightened that the FCC just terminated “net-neutrality,” which means that the middle distributors can charge different Internet rates depending upon the source and the content.
Rubert Murdoch is known as a very shrewd businessman. The fact that he wants to sell his entertainment properties should be the cause of suspicion. If it looks like a good deal, it most likely is a good deal – for Murdoch.
Indeed, the Internet was not designed for the delivery of broadband video. The bandwidth (or data capacity) and need for instantaneous delivery, coupled with the one-way nature, of video is costly. One solution is to charge more, as now allowed by the elimination of net-neutrality. Another solution would be a network optimized for the technological demands of video – but that would require technological innovation. Unfortunately, the Bell Labs of the past that used to give us such innovation is no more, and the telephone companies, such as AT&T, simply are not innovative.
A. Michael Noll is Professor Emeritus of Communications at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He has written many articles and opinion pieces about the telecommunications industry and technology.
Friday, November 24th, 2017
The 1st INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION (ICMC 2018), hosted by the Department of Communication Studies of Abu Dhabi University, will be held on March 19-21, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE. The former director of the Quello Center, Emeritus Professor Steve Wildman, will be presenting one of two keynotes.
The Aims and Objectives of ICMC 2018 are to exchange best practices and promote international partnership and cooperation among academia and media practitioners worldwide and to create an international forum to present, discuss and exchange the latest academic research in media and communication.
Dr Mike Friedrichsen, President, Berlin University of Digital Sciences, Germany, will be presenting the other keynote.
Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017
AT&T Goes Hollywood
A. Michael Noll
© Copyright 2017 AMN
AT&T wants to purchase Time Warner — the White House and the Justice Department correctly oppose the acquisition. The acquisition would create a huge vertical integration of content and conduit that would not benefit consumers, in my opinion. But the local telephone companies have a long history of lusting after content and Hollywood.
Today’s AT&T is really a former local Bell company: the past Southwestern Bell that then became SBC Communications which then acquired AT&T and then wrapped itself in the AT&T identity.
Over two decades ago, the local Bell companies chased after the entertainment industry. And now again one of the remaining of the two super Bells – AT&T – is again inflicted with Hollywood fever.
AT&T is a conduit company, providing the cables and wireless paths over which consumer access various services. In 2015, AT&T extended its control over conduit through its acquisition of DirecTV for nearly $50 billion, delivering video over satellite to homes. But throughout history, the old Bell operating companies have lusted after also providing the content that their customers want to access over the conduits.
The telecommunication conduit business in the United States has become mostly a duopoly. AT&T and Verizon dominate wireless. Either AT&T or Verizon and a CATV company dominate wired access. Duopolies inherently adjust “competition” so that markets are shared and profits maximized, without attracting government attention. In the late 1940s, the studios were forced to divest their vertical integration of movie theaters. So today If AT&T wants to become a content company, it should be required to divest its wireless and wireline conduit businesses.
AT&T knows little of Hollywood and the news and entertainment businesses. It should stick with its strengths in providing wired and wireless conduits, as I wrote in 1993.* One might argue that if AT&T wants to lose its shirt chasing Hollywood, then let it. However, like decades ago, now is still not the time for AT&T to go Hollywood.** “Hollywood” might well end up as “Follywood” for AT&T.
*“Baby Bells Should Stick With Strengths,” by A. Michael Noll, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 19933, p. B15.
**“The phone company has gone Hollywood,” by A. Michael Noll, Morris County Daily Record, January 7, 1994, p. A11.
November 22, 2017