Beating the Kobayashi Maru – or the human vs machine experiment with Watson

“I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.” (James T. Kirk, Starship Captain)

When you are a strong believer in datadriven decision making, building strategies on real insights, and always sticking to facts rather than fiction – it’s a hard blow when one of the world’s leading artificial intelligence systems tells you, that you are not a nice person. It’s based on data – so it’s a fact.

Many industry leaders have evangelists who are excellent presenters and subject matter experts. It’s always a privilege when you get a chance to interview an evangelist. I met IBM’s Rashik Parmar, Watson evangelist, at IPExpo Nordic a few weeks ago.

WatsonDescription.png

Source: IBM

There is so much potential for big data analysis and the learnings and insights we gain, from combining the many available sources of accssible data to draw new conclusions and find answers. That’s basically what Watson does. And then makes the logical connections. Simply put.

IBM developed a small demo engine that would analyse your Twitter personality and generate those awesome charts we all love; and few of us know how to interpret. It was reassuring to see what a nice guy President Obama is on Twitter. And my friend, Rashik, had a similar profile – so all good.

Potus.png

Source: IBM’s demo app TweetMeWatson

Lucky for me, we couldn’t make it work for my profile until I got home. When I ran it, I found out I was

“Inconsiderate and a bit shrewd”

I will spare you the rest. Either I am very delusional about how I express myself, or there was something fishy going on here. But it’s based on data! It has to be true!

Before digging a hole in the garden to hide from the world – or the equivalent: deleting my Twitter account – I decided to think it through. What was Watson picking up on, what were the actual parameters used?

The Big Five (FFM) Personality Traits

Watson is grouping our personalities according to the Five Factor Model (FFM) Wikipedia explains:

The Big Five personality traits, also known as the five factor model (FFM), is a model based on common language descriptors of personality (lexical hypothesis). These descriptors are grouped together using a statistical technique called factor analysis (i.e. this model is not based on experiments).

This widely examined theory suggests five broad dimensions used by some psychologists to describe the human personality and psyche.[1][2] The five factors have been defined as openness to experienceconscientiousnessextraversionagreeableness, and neuroticism, often listed under the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE. Beneath each proposed global factor, a number of correlated and more specific primary factors are claimed. For example, extraversion is said to include such related qualities as gregariousness, assertiveness, excitement seeking, warmth, activity, and positive emotions.

220px-francis_galton_1850s It all sounds very reassuring, the term “Lexical Hypothesis” makes sense –  it was analysing words. This is a principle which was developed by British and German psychologists to identify a personality characteristic. It was used to determine risk of mental illness or criminal behaviour. Invented in 1884, by the way, by Sir Fancis Galton – a stern looking fellow.

But something as elusive and intangible as the human mind is so very hard to classify and illustrate in data points and charts. By creating a lexicon of words and adjectives that at the time were considered to be indicators for certain behaviours, they provided a tool to build profiles – and categorise people based by their choice of words.

Note that the method has also received a lot of criticism – many of them quite reassuring when you are on the receiving end of this exercise. Read more here. 

Phew – that means I can still be a nice person, just not when I tweet. Or speak.

It seemed safe to climb back out of the hole in the garden and meet the world face on. But knowing now what triggered my unpleasant profile, I decided to challenge Watson to a duel.

A duelling experiment

kobayashi-maru-02

@echrexperiment is the experimental Twitter profile where tweets were worded more carefully, where people and followers were thanked and nothing bad was happening in the world. No politics, no injustice, no gender inequality, no discrimination. And lots of cats.

exhrexperiment.png

 

After three weeks, I was a much nicer person. The traits that I seem to be exploiting negatively in my original profile are now contributing to a positive image.

Suddenly, uncompromising was a good thing.

Spock.png

“In academic vernacular, you cheated”

Like Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek challenging Mr. Spock’s designed program, I cheated to win.

Most of my tweets were carefully drafted using positive semantics but remaining true to my usual topics of interest. I was not trying to be someone else, just focusing on being nice. Here’s a list of the parameters I introduced to make Watson love me more:

  • Following back – anyone who followed me, unless an obvious business account or egghead, was followed back as soon as I spotted them.
  • #FF – sometimes I used the FollowFriday hashtag to thank select people. It generated some nice interactions even between those mentioned, so I grouped them into categories – e.g. Danes, analysts, etc.
  • I thanked, and loved, and “awesome’d” and “great’ed” a lot.
  • Sharing – giving credit, not taking it. I always mentioned the source or the account where I had picked up a link.
  • Sharing the love – retweets were focused on positive news, positive sentiments and uplifting current events. I also checked the wording of the original tweet before RT’ing to avoid contamination of my positivity.
  • Getting personal – my personality and emotions were conveyed more by sharing private interests such as books, cats, travel and science fiction.
  • Language Disclaimer – all of the above choices were based on my non-native perception of the English language, and may have been different from Webster’s Dictionary which is the basic semantic interpreter used in lexical hypothesis.

What I didn’t do

Humour doesn’t travel well, so any jokes, irony, satire and cartoons were not part of echrexperiment. I may have gotten carried away occasionally, but consciously tried to avoid it.

Politics are a powerful emotional trigger, so I avoided RT’ing or engaging in conversations with political statements. That wasn’t the mission.

Automation is a powerful tool to increase the quantity of your social media posts, but with automation things like timing and engagement suffer. Sometimes, due to other news, automation may even lead to displaying insensitivity.

Automatic response is a convenient way to further promote your services and invite people to connect. But it just isn’t personal. Despite all these lovely people addressing me by name. I did not send messages to thank people for the follow, but I checked their profile and retweeted where I could to show my appreciation.

What Watson had to say about @echrexperiment

The app itself produces a lot of detail as you can see from above. Below I grouped the result into more familiar charts to share some highlights. To make sure I picked a really nice person as control, I chose President Obama’s Twitter @potus. But please remember – it’s probably mostly his staff tweeting. And they seem to have done an excellent job.

watson1

Obama – it appears – is very agreeable on Twitter, and my experimental lovely/nicey/catsy account matches this impression very nicely. We are both very open, although I am lagging on conscientousness, but hey –  I am not the President.

Digging deeper into selected parameters, revealed some interesting characteristics related to being a President or just trying to be a nice person.

We can all agree that values should be an important parameter if you are President of the United States. Strangely enough Obama wasn’t all that keen on change, and more inclined to be conservative. For self enhancement … we have identified the villain – the one parameter that makes my original Twitter account so repugnant. I leave the graph to stand on its own.

Meanwhile, President Obama scored a resounding Zero on self-enhancement – but he made it to the top already.

watson2

President Obama’s most distinguishing need is the need for structure. Love – it seems – he gets a plenty.

On the other hand, my original self seems to have enough structure in her life.

Watson3.png

But here’s the greatest insight from this entire exercise – other than confirming that it is possible to change who you are, or rather how you are perceived:

When it comes to curiosity, all you need to do is be a positive tweeter and include lots of cats.

 

IMG_0042.JPG

 

The Swedish Model – Or The Importance of being “Lagom”

Lagom is the ticket to successful integration in Sweden

Where else in the world can friend and foe in business and politics exchange their views in an inclusive, open and collaborative setting where everyone equally gets their say, and audiences engage and contribute – and criticise. Disciplined. Cilivized. Respectful. – Getting together on an island to debate everything from ethics to politics. This was Almedalen Week July 2016

Who gets to lead? Whoever shouts the loudest?

Watching the rallies from the US presidential elections always makes me wonder what happened to politics being the voice of the people. There really isn’t much room for debate or separate opinions. It is all about who shouts the loudest, who creates the best TV broadcast friendly setting with American flags, banners or sound bites on signs lifted high by a religiously enchanted audience. They all agree at a rally. Of course they do – they are handpicked to do so, I assume. And the sound bites are carefully crafted, and really not anybody’s opinion. I learned that from the documentary The War Room  on Bill Clinton’s election campaign.

ST. LOUIS, UNITED STATES: Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton (L) waves to supporters as he holds the hand of his wife Hillary, 22 July, 1992 after speaking at a rally. St. Louis was the last stop on the Clinton-Gore campaign's bus tour. The crowd was estimated at 40,000. (Photo credit should read TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton (L) waves to supporters as he holds the hand of his wife Hillary, 22 July, 1992 after speaking at a rally. (Photo TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Feministisk Initiativ

Gudrun Schyman, leader of the Swedish Feminist Party, at a meeting in Almedalen rebuking the speech given by Prime Minister Löfven earlier – with facts, arguments and civility (Photo by the author)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Almedalen on the Swedish island of Gotland, at this annual gathering of everybody who is anybody (and a few nobodies like me) in Swedish society, it appears we all agree despite disagreeing strongly.

It’s just that nobody is shouting. If you do, your message simply won’t be respected. You can say things with emphasis, you can criticize, you can argue, you can disagree. But you let your opponent finish their sentence, you do not raise your voice or shout insults. Everybody is allowed to be there. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. They are not your mortal enemy, they are just different.

It’s called diversity. It’s called freedom of speech. It’s just lagom.

There is no translation for the word lagom – it is a state of mind, a way to view life and human interactions. And relationships. And the weather. What is lagom?

Picture1An urban myth claims that the amount of mead in a viking drinking cup being passed around a group of warriors must be “lagom” – as in be enough for the entire team. “Lag” means team in Swedish. Pass it around the entire team for everyone to have a sip.

 

 

Raised to be lagom

The Swedish Board of School Education  states that in 2015, 94% of all children aged 4-5 attended municipal kindergarden/daycare. If you dive deeper, you realize that an impressive 88.4% of all children living in Sweden with immigrant parents attended these kindergardens. And they are all brought up with the concept of lagom as a way of life and human interaction. This is integration at it’s best.

On a lighter note, here’s a nice review of the differences between a Swedish boyfriend brought up along those principles, and what you could experience with others.

And it’s not a new phenomenon – it’s an integral part of the Swedish welfare state where the decade long focus on gender equality in the home and in the workplace has meant that generations of Swedes today setting the tone and the agenda in business, politics and academia were brought up to be lagom. Brought up to be considerate, attentive and inclusive.

It’s not that easy to be lagom

I am an immigrant myself, coming from Germany, then Denmark and now Sweden. And these are three entirely different cultures in terms of human interaction and behaviour. I will never really be part of this tribe; my values may be to be both considerate, attentive and inclusive – but I am certainly not lagom.

It’s an acquired trait, you restrain yourself from voicing disagreement, you avoid standing out in confrontative situations and you must not take the last cookie on the platter. I can do neither.

But I often meet immigrants and children of immigrants who are mastering the skill and have become part of the tribe in a way I may never be. Amazingly enough, being lagom also meant that when I joined Refugees Welcome Stockholm at Almedalen last week to quietly, orderly walk around in my pink vest, I was stopped by locals and organisations and thanked for our efforts.

Our purpose there was not to shout – it was to remind politicians, opinion makers and media of the fact that these people need help, not rejection.Karin

Karin, a police volonteer from the hectic days of autumn 2015 at the Stockholm Central Train Station stopped me in my pink vest to thank Refugees Welcome Stockholm for continuing our efforts

 

 

 

 

Rosa Stationen – A Refugees Welcome Stockholm integration project

35,000 people came to the Almedalen Week this year in July. That is as many people as Refugees Welcome Stockholm (RWS) received and assisted during the influx of refugees in the autumn months of 2015.

In the autumn and winter of 2015, local Stockholmers, passers by, volonteers from help organisations, young and old rallied at the Stockholm Central Train station to help these people not just with the bare necessities of life but into a new and meaningful existence. It takes a lot more than food, shelter and clothing.

Read more about some of their fates here:  When disruption becomes tangible – stories from a train station. Europe September 2015.

12803301_10156589033860254_2906163964960997053_n

RWS created Rosa Stationen  a meeting place, where the volunteers who were persevering at the train station, continue their involvement by exemplifying and teaching refugees how a Swede respects and values you and your opinion.

It’s not really a survival technique for refugees – being lagom

Sometimes it is difficult to convey to these people, because the trauma and the fact that they survived their perilous journeys and made it this far, is not because they were lagom in anything.

It’s more likely that they had to be fierce, persistent, loud. It is very plausible that these qualities, which ensured their survival, are also the ones who can obstruct a successful integration. A Swede brought up on these ideals has difficulties interacting with and understanding behaviour as “un-lagom” as this. Being “un-lagom” myself, I can relate.

The focus of the newly arrived is on finding jobs to learn the “Swedish Way” which is so much more than learning the language. It will be a long journey for them, but many of the volunteers at RWS have made similar journeys themselves, as children or more recently as young adults.

And they are the most successful, most warmhearted, most outstanding human beings I have ever met. Despite being just lagom.

  • If you would like to learn more about the Refugees Welcome Stockholm integration activities, take a look at the Refugees Welcome Stockholm Website , follow us on Twitter or join our Facebook group
  • The next big project is #GeBarnenAndrum (Create a Safe Haven for the children). You can volunteer or support the effort with a donation

It is through the children we ensure the future and they are the ones who need a safe haven the most.