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Archive for March, 2014

Zuckerberg, Musk Invest in Artificial-Intelligence Company

Artificial intelligence gets investment from some heavy hitters. We wonder what Use Cases they are using to create these solutions….

Elon Musk made the electric car cool. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook. Ashton Kutcher portrayed Apple founder Steve Jobs in a movie. Now, the three are joining in a $40 million investment in Vicarious FPC, a secretive artificial-intelligence company.
The funding round, the second major infusion of capital for the company in two years, is the latest sign of life in artificial intelligence. Last month, Google acquired another AI company called Deep Mind for $400 million.
Vicarious has an ambitious goal: Replicating the neocortex, the part of the brain that sees, controls the body, understands language and does math. Translate the neocortex into computer code and “you have a computer that thinks like a person,” says Vicarious co-founder Scott Phoenix. “Except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.”
It may be decades before companies like Vicarious can create computers with human-like intelligence. But web outfits like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others have more immediate uses for artificial intelligence.
Facebook, for instance, wants to turn the massive amounts of information shared by its users into a database of wisdom. Ask Facebook a question, and, if all goes to plan, it will spit out an answer based on facts users have shared. Facebook is also using artificial intelligence for facial recognition to identify users in photos. Facebook recently hired a leader in artificial intelligence, Yann LeCun, to run a new lab.
A Facebook spokesman said Zuckerberg’s investment in Vicarious, which hasn’t been previously reported, is a personal one and does not reflect Facebook’s interest in using Vicarious software.
Musk did not respond to a request for comment. Kutcher declined to comment.
Phoenix, the co-founder, says Vicarious aims beyond image recognition. He said the next milestone will be creating a computer that can understand not just shapes and objects, but the textures associated with them. For example, a computer might understand “chair.” It might also comprehend “ice.” Vicarious wants to create a computer that will understand a request like “show me a chair made of ice.”
Phoenix hopes that, eventually, Vicarious’s computers will learn to how to cure diseases, create cheap, renewable energy, and perform the jobs that employ most human beings. “We tell investors that right now, human beings are doing a lot of things that computers should be able to do,” he says.
Vicarious, whose other co-founder was neuroscientist Dileep George, is a long way from accomplishing its goals. Phoenix says the company won’t make a profit anytime soon and it has said very little about how its technology works. It hasn’t even disclosed its exact address, for fear it might be the target of corporate espionage or hacking.
Vicarious’s backers include a venture fund run by PayPal founder and Facebook investor Peter Thiel, which was among those who invested $1.2 million in 2010. In 2012, a new group of investors, including Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, injected $15 million. Kutcher’s investment comes via his fund, “A-Grade Investments.”
The latest funding round was led by venture capital firm Formation 8. “Companies that pioneer a fundamental technological breakthrough often come to define entire industries,” said Formation 8 founder Joe Lonsdale, who also co-founded data-mining software maker Palantir Technologies. “I believe Vicarious has the potential to become one of these companies.”
25 March, 2013
By Reed Albergotti, Wall Street Journal

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Automating Process Improvement

We call it PSPO (Professional Services Process Optimization). In a nutshell it’s the automation of process best practices and code generation. The consulting industry’s lowest cost provider uses this meta tool to reduce design time by 20-30% and increase code generation by 60-85%. It has saved $180,000,000 in avoided rework alone and has enabled successful fixed bidding for CMMI compliant Government contracts. The bottom line…..it increased profitability by 16.7% compared to peers. The following Whitepaper explores just how and why it works so astonishingly well.

Automating Process Improvement Whitepaper

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Can consultng services be commoditized???

How the sophisticated application of data analysis in evidence-based research and de-mystification of “unique solutions” will let you not only survive but thrive in a hostile, no-growth environment – while former competitors may become extinct!

The German Psychologists’ victorious quest for parity
Or: Can consulting services be commoditized???

German Psychologists had been advocating for the appreciation of their science and profession for several decades. But it was not until German and Swiss Psychologists united at the University of Bern in the early 1990’s that their dream would become reality. How did they do it? By raising the bar when it comes to the understanding and application of mathematics, particularly statistics and research design to a new level. In the most comprehensive therapy outcome metaanalysis conducted until that time, commonly practiced therapy approaches including pharmacological treatment were scrutinized for their efficacy remedying the most common psychiatric disorders. The results led to true parity for psychologists and changed health care administration irrevocably:

1. Particular therapeutic approaches were found to be significantly superior over pharmacological treatment in their efficacy mid- and long-term for most psychiatric disorders.
2. Even if less credentialed and/or academically trained professionals follow the identified and standardized best practice treatment protocols progress remains significant in mid- and long-term efficacy and superior to other approaches applied by extensively and expensively trained experts.
3. Long-term psychoanalysis failed to prove its efficacy and hence to justify its status quo.
4. Practitioners of therapeutic schools that failed to prove their efficacy are not being reimbursed anymore by health insurance providers. These approaches are becoming extinct.

Be particularly aware of bullet point ‘3.’. Old-school, long-term psychoanalysts had always claimed that their approach needs to be considered more of an art, something that cannot really be captured, standardized, explained or reproduced easily. Unless, they said, you have undergone your own psychoanalysis, which costs years of weekly therapy sessions and easily amounts to the value of a single family home after it’s all said and done. However the most comprehensive therapy outcome study ever conducted by the most prominent psychoanalysts of their time revealed embarrassing results for long-term psychoanalysis (Wallerstein, R.S. (1989). Forty-two lives in treatment: A study of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press.).
Now, what does all that have to do with your consulting business and trends seen in our globalized economy? Everything! One of the largest consulting companies operating on the biggest profit margin has already analyzed and captured their best practices. It has lead to the capability to place fixed bids in response to comprehensive RFP’s. In addition it enabled them to significantly shorten and streamline the training of new consultants resulting in earlier and higher profitability per consultant.
Conclusion:
a) If you do not utilize sophisticated data analysis tools to capture best practices and increase transparency and predictability you will continue to operate on an inferior profit margin, giving away up to 15% in net profit.
b) If you continue to market yourself as a unique solution provider while failing to quantify the efficacy of your services in comparison to competitors you will lose your client’s trust and become extinct.

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