AI and Congress

AI Pictorial

On April 10th and 11th, 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for almost 10 hours by senators and representatives before joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees regarding the company’s privacy policies and use of data collected on the company’s social media web site. The most used phrase in Mr. Zuckerberg’s responses was AI (artificial intelligence).

Many of the questions were understandably difficult to answer. For example, when will Facebook disallow and remove all postings which offer to sell opioids, which are hateful, or encourage terrorist acts? Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged developing and deploying AI to disallow and remove “bad” content is difficult, will take significant technical development, and will require a lot of time. An AI solution may be even more difficult than he thinks.

Illicit drug dealers may invent new abbreviations or pseudo names to describe illegal drugs as fast or faster than AI can spot them. It is easy for most humans to tell the difference between “I hate spinach” or “I hate this frigid weather” and a statement about hating a particular person or group of persons. A recent experience on Facebook made the challenges of AI very personal to me.

On February 9, 2018, I posted a story titled “Corrupt Congress” in my blog at johnpatrick.com.[i] I use a social media tool called Buffer to automatically share all of my posts on a number of social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Medium, and GotChosen. The story was about how the pharmaceutical industry lobby spends hundreds of millions of dollars to support American politicians who vote favorably on programs which protect the status quo of high drug prices. I wrote about this in considerable detail in Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare.[ii]

A couple of days later, I received a support message from Facebook on my iPhone. The message said, “We removed this post because it looks like spam to us. If you did post this and don’t believe it’s spam, you can let us know.” I responded by clicking on “This is not spam”. A couple of days later, I got another support message. It said, “Thanks for letting us know about this post. We’ll try to take another look to check if it goes against our Community Standards and send you a message here in your Support Inbox if we have an update.” A couple more days went by and then I got a final support message saying, “Thanks again for letting us know about this post. We took another look and found it doesn’t go against our Community Standards, so we’ve restored your post. We’re sorry for the trouble and appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with us so that we could correct this.”

Over the course of the following few weeks, I received more than a dozen support messages about additional posts, all of which were taken down by Facebook. All said, ““We removed this post because it looks like spam to us.” The keyword in the message is “us”. Who is “us”? It turned out the “us” was an AI. The AI read the title of the “Corrupt Congress” post and, apparently, interpreted the word “corrupt” as a verb. I had written it as an adjective. In other words, I was describing Congress, but the AI thought I wanted to change Congress and by corrupting it. One word, two uses. Perhaps if I had titled the story as, “A Corrupt Congress”, the AI would have seen the word “corrupt” as an adjective. This simple example illustrates why AI has a long way to go to equal the humans who looked at my post after I attested it was not spam.

I opened a technical support ticket with Facebook to look into the problem further. They acknowledged the “corrupt” post was flagged by the AI, which in turn, flagged me as a bad person. They had put a block on my account which prevented me from uploading any stories, pictures, or videos. The support person checked me out, apologized for Facebook, and assured me I would never be blocked from uploading content in the future.

[i] “Corrupt Congress,”  johnpatrick.com (2018), https://www.johnpatrick.com/corrupt-congress/

[ii] Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare (Palm Coast, FL: Attitude LLC, 2015).

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Mock Trial of Tech Titans

Trial by Judge

The timing for a mock trial of tech titans could not be better. See press release below. If you are in New York next week and want to attend, don’t hesitate to drop me a mail. There are just a few seats left, and I would be happy to get you an invitation. Attendees will be receiving a copy of Home Attitude: Everything You Need To Know To Make Your Home Smart.


MOCK TRIAL OF TECH TITANS HIGHLIGHTS 24th GENESYS VENTURE FORUM

Best-selling Author Ken Auletta is Judge, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny argues for government oversight, ITIF’s Rob Atkinson defends a hands-off policy, audience is Jury

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York, NY—April 4, 2018…Venture capital firm Genesys Partners today announced that its 2018 Annual

Venture Dinner & Forum, now in its 24th year, will feature a mock trial about the Tech Titans, according to CEO James Kollegger. Scheduled for April 25th at the historic Union League Club in New York City, the mock trial will be judged by best-selling author Ken Auletta and decided by the audience of senior executives from venture investing firms, venture-backed technology companies, media organizations and leaders supporting the burgeoning entrepreneurial community in the region. The event, by invitation only, begins at 5pm.

“Tech Titans on Trial: Do Internet giants have too much power? Should governments intervene?” will be the topic of cross examination between Auletta, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and author of “Big is Beautiful: Debunking the Myth of Small Business”. The mock trial concludes with the jury, the 100+ Venture Forum attendees, rendering their verdict.

A cocktail networking reception and seated dinner will immediately follow, featuring remarks by:

  • Dr. John Patrick, former VP of Internet at IBM, start-up mentor, board member and investor;
  • Howard Tullman, former CEO of 1871, the world’s biggest incubator, serial entrepreneur and GeneralManaging Partner G2T3V LLC and Chicago High Tech Investment Partners; and,
  • Mark Walsh, formerly of Revolution Ventures, Verticalnet, and serial entrepreneur, who will wrap upthe evening with his classic satire and song.

“This event has typically attracted a standing room crowd of invitation-only guests,” explains Mr.
Kollegger. “With Facebook and Google in today’s prime-time news, our mock trial topic could not be better timed for this audience. We expect a lively and engaging ‘hearing’ as the issues and boundaries between business and privacy, free markets and regulation continue to collide.”

For more information about this event, visit: www.genesyspartners.com. To request an invitation, send an email including your company affiliation to: xa@genesyspartners.com.

MEDIA CONTACT: Liz Sara, CEO, Best Marketing LLC. Cell: 202.255.0134 LSara@BestMarketing.net

ABOUT GENESYS PARTNERS

Genesys Partners, Inc. is an investment banking, venture capital and venture development company that specializes in the digital information industry. The company operates like a boutique private equity firm. Genesys focuses on early-stage ventures that are developing information products with market- changing potential. Genesys assists young companies in a highly hands-on way to increase their chances of success and to make the crucial transition from start-up to IPO or exit.

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Facebook and Congress

Facebook Logos

Security and privacy of our online presence is vitally important, perhaps more so than we may realize at this stage of the evolution of social media. It is similar to patient safety and quality in healthcare; there is no room for compromise, and neglect can be catastrophic. I was quite involved in the subject of privacy and content on the Internet in the early days of the web. In roughly 1995, a dozen Internet executives attended a meeting at the White House with Al Gore. President Clinton joined the meeting near the end. The focus of the meeting was mostly on content and how it could be rated to protect children. I was one of the co-founders of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT in 1994 and was chairman of the Global Internet Project. I was also involved in content rating initiatives. The President of the American Library Association argued against any “censorship” of Internet content. I argued we needed to protect children and regulate XXX content on the web. I also argued privacy would become an even bigger issue. That was nearly 25 years ago. My hunch turned out to be a gross understatement of the issue. Because of the importance and my personal interest in the topic of privacy, I decided to watch the entire hearings by the Senate and House committees. It was an eye opener in several respects.

First was Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Facebook. The 33-year-old young man has a net worth estimated to be $62.2 billion as of March 25. The riches did not fall from the sky. Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard University dormitory room, and it has continuously expanded. It now serves two billion users, mostly outside of the United States. Time magazine named Zuckerberg among the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world. He was ranked 10th on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People. He attended Ardsley High School, in Westchester County, New York, and then Phillips Exeter Academy, a private school in New Hampshire. He won prizes in math, astronomy, physics, and classical studies. He also attended the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer camp. He could read and write French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek, and was captain of the fencing team. With crowds of photographers, senators, reporters, and staff, Mark Zuckerberg was cool, calm, collected, and articulate as he was grilled by Congress.

The second eye opener was Congress. Being a septuagenarian, I can say age does not have to be a barrier to understanding Internet technology. I cannot say I was surprised, but it was nevertheless stunning how ignorant our elected Senators are about technology. It wasn’t just the octogenarians either. More than 40 Senators each had five minutes to ask questions. It was clear they had so many Senators because it was a political opportunity to show their constituents they were on top of the issue. Apparently, they did not consider how clueless they would sound reading questions from sheets of paper prepared by someone else, which they obviously did not understand. Many of the questions were beyond stupid. Zuckerberg was stupefied and speechless with many of the questions.

European regulators have been working on privacy protection for quite a few years. The Global Internet Project board, of which I was chairman, travelled the world circa 1995 to urge regulators not to over-regulate the infantile Internet. Around 2000, we declared victory, having concluded the Internet had reach puberty and was unstoppable. The Europeans continued to work on privacy regulation, and next month its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into effect. The GDPR is thousands of pages and will cost the tech industry billions of dollars to implement and potentially billions in fines for non-compliance. The GDPR may be excessive, but I am generally in favor of it. A small minority of the U.S. Congress understands the issues, has developed a number of bipartisan bills with more to come, but has been unable to gain a political consensus. If you have any doubts about the need for privacy regulation, go to your Facebook account and download the data about you Facebook has collected, and which they use to make advertisers able to target you. This is not all. bad, but the issue is the average Facebook user does not realize what data is being captured and what is being done with it. GDPR changes that by requiring social media sites to inform you and get your permission to save data about you. Facebook, and Google and others, know who your friends are, what books and movies you have seen, where you have been and when, what you have written, who you have sent messages to and about what, and much more. Again, this is not all bad, but I think the need for government oversight is clear.

The most used term in Zuckerberg’s answers and comments was AI. We can be quite sure the majority of Congress has no idea what artificial intelligence is and what it can do. AI has the potential to help solve the problematic aspects of social media, but it is a two-edged sword. I will write more about AI next week.

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Regenerative Medicine for Kidneys

Human Kidney

I have written a number of articles here about regenerative medicine. The reason I think the topic is so important is 115,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. Twenty-two people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time. One organ, eye, and tissue donor can save and heal more than 75 lives. The argument to be a donor is compelling, but only 52% have registered to become one.

Inspired, in part, by late company co-founder Steve Jobs, Apple decided to do something to raise the number. Jobs revealed in September of 2009 he had received the liver of a mid-20s person who died in a car crash, and was registered as an organ donor. When iOS 10 for iPhone arrived in the Fall of 2016, it included a new addition to its Health app. Apple considers the Health app to be so important, it cannot be deleted. A simple registration form submitted from the iPhone app will be sent directly to the National Donate Life Registry. Users will have their decision to be a donor with them at all times. It took just seconds to register from my iPhone. Perhaps organs from someone my age would not be useful, but it costs nothing to sign up.

The ultimate solution to the shortage of donated organs is regenerative medicine using 3-D printing and pluripotent stem cells. I have written about breakthroughs with creating human heart and liver tissue. Now, Scientists at The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have had a breakthrough in creating kidney tissue. The researchers grew human embryonic stem cells in plastic laboratory culture dishes into microscopic parts of the kidney called glomeruli.  A glomerulus is a cluster of capillaries around the end of a kidney tubule, where waste products are filtered from the blood. 

The researchers injected what came from the dish as a tiny clump under the skin of mice. After three months, they found nephrons,  which are microscopic structural and functional components of a kidney. The tissue included tiny human blood capillaries, which provided nourishment for the newly grown kidney tissue. Although, the researchers were able to grow the kidney tissue, it is missing a large artery, which is needed for a kidney to perform adequately. The researchers are working with surgeons to insert an artery which can bring more blood into the new kidney.

I find this research remarkable. The Manchester team proved the tissue they placed in a mouse grown from human cells actually functioned as kidney cells. The new tissue was able to filter blood and produce urine. The tissue was formed from several hundred glomeruli, and humans have about a million in their kidneys. Nevertheless, the research represents a major breakthrough. See the full story, “Scientists create functioning kidney tissue“, in Science Daily. Read more about regenerative medicine in Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare.

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Tesla Police Cars

Tesla in Florida

The Tesla performed very nicely driving back to Connecticut from Florida. It was a great three months there, and as the temperatures began to drop and signs of snow appeared, I was tempted to turn around and drive back to Florida. Most of the Supercharger locations along our route had no other cars charging. One location had 18 charging stations but only three cars, including mine, but the other two were not Teslas. Some folks must have been tempted because the chargers were near a food court in the mall. It is obvious Tesla is planning ahead for the appearance of thousands of Tesla Model 3s. I envision some of the smaller charger locations may have a line of cars waiting to charge.

Electric cars make sense to more and more people. Even police departments are getting interested. The police in the canton of Basel-Stadt in Switzerland  announced in March they will replace some of their diesel vehicles with Tesla Model X SUVs. They must believe Tesla’s claim about the car: “the safest, quickest, most capable SUV ever.” In its announcement, the Basel-Stadt police force said the decision was partly economic and partly environmental. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted, “Swiss police are smart. . . . the bad guys will def not escape”.

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