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.

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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.

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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

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@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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

How to win presidential elections with a digital strategy

“If the Democratic party were a body, Bernie Sanders would be the heart and Hillary Clinton the brain”

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition – and initially, nobody expected Barack Obama to have a real chance – even more so to get re-elected for a second term. What was his secret? It was being both the brains and the heart.

His method was using data to gain insight into what people care about and address that issue at each and every rally right there and then. When the issue was burning the most.

For us non-US observers it is worth remembering that the key to winning the candidacy as well as the election is not necessarily winning the votes of those who walk to the ballots. It’s about engaging those who wouldn’t.

A datadriven digital strategy

A datadriven strategy enables you to identify the issues that engage your audience.

For his first term election campaign, Obama succeeded in engaging a generation – the generation of social media which was just about to take off at the time.

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He was the first major political candidate to understand the power of sentiments and the power of the voice of the people outside the established channels such as television and news anchors.

By 2012 for the re-election he – or his team of advisors – had understood the power of using data to refine the message and making it timely.

The power of the crowd

As I am writing this article, the final numbers for Iowa have not yet come in, but it is a 50-50 race between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. In social media, Bernie Sanders has won (according to this Reuters analysis.)

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders raises a fist as he speaks at his caucus night rally Des Moines

Bernie Sanders raises a fist as he speaks at his caucus night rally Des Moines. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Sanders was mentioned 77,000 times versus Clinton’s 55,000 times (Brandwatch) and gained 15,699 new Facebook followers on the one day. Clinton’s Facebook page only came third with 6,210 new followers that day, trailing Donald Trump’s 10,704.

As in all data, one must not jump to easy conclusions and take the number at it’s face value. There can be many different reasons why someone chooses to like a Facebook page – you could be liking an opponent to observe and learn, or to troll and create a disturbance. The second level of such an analysis should therefore always be a sentiment analysis and catalogueing the social media influence of these new followers to be able to conclude credibly whether this will impact a future election result.

 

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But one thing is certain – you could easily turn the intelligence gathered from this analysis into a practical campaign such as Obama did. One example is given below where the objective was to engage would-be supporters who just had not registered to vote with BigData combined with TV advertisement.

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I can’t wait to read more analyses on how the candidates fare by making their data speak. May the best data whisperer win.

 

More interesting links to the impact of social media on US elections:

 

 

 

When disruption becomes tangible – stories from a train station. Europe September 2015.

This blog is about digital disruption.  A disruption  is a major disturbance, something that changes your plans or interrupts some event or process.

Right now, our comfortable reality is being disrupted – brutally, dramatically. This blog entry is not what I normally write about, but it is important. Here are some destinies from Stockholm Central Station.

My respect for the personal integrity of these refugees arriving to train stations across Europe, struggling to find a way to continue their journey, stopped me from bringing out the camera despite those countless moments that would have been powerful images.

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They say, a picture can say more than a thousand words.

I have no pictures for this story, so I will paint them with my words.

Picture No. 1

Remarkably, hundreds of refugees pass us during our day at the station, but nearly the only littering/garbage left behind are some cigarette stubs, probably from the local people as they light up leaving the station rushing towards their lives.

The transport coordinators (and I, one of the drivers) are standing with our fluorescent vests next to a lamp pole outside Stockholm Central Station. There is a box behind us with some notes and pens. A little girl – 5-6 years old – points at the box. We smile. She walks up to it and looks to us for confirmation, then drops the peel of the pineapple slice she had received in the food tent into the box. She has been brought up to understand that she is our guest, and she does not want to litter.

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Picture No. 2

A determined red haired volunteer muscles her way through the crowds to our lamp post. She wants help for her group, the people she had welcomed on the platform as she could speak their native tongue. There is a boy, with one eye blinded, protruding slightly. A father, 2 more children, a mother, an uncle. The boy’s eye hurts terribly, the redhead wants to find a doctor. We ask her to go to the Red Cross station.

– “No, they said they don’t have a doctor – they said I should ask you, the people with the vests”. We, the volunteers, can organize a car to the hospital but the redhead throws her arms in the air: “They have no time, they finally got train tickets to the North and the train leaves in 3 hours”.

So I take off my vest and go into action mode: “I will take them, I will explain the urgency and get him back in time. I have had my 1-on-1’s with hospitals before.” She explains, they discuss, the mother cries, and the father and uncle take my hand. Please. Yes. The boy looks at me and smiles with his good eye.

This is Sweden. At the hospital we get speeded through. The receptionist calls a friend who works in administration, he speaks Arabic. Their story unfolds as he explains to the doctor what has happened:

Abu Bakr – 10 years old, from Bagdad. His home was bombed, his eye damaged by splintering glass. In Irak, they had tried to treat him, but the medicine they carried had been contaminated. On the fragile rubber boat – in the Mediterranean – when they tried to start the outboard engine, he got an elbow thrust into the eye, and gasoline as well. That’s when it got really bad. Only in Sweden did they find the courage to ask for help. During their exodus they were afraid they might be detained.

The doctor investigates, prepares the prescriptions to take on their onwards journey and sends us to the local pharmacy. I had not really donated money yet, and I do not mind paying for the medication to last the boy for 2 months. With my credit card ready, the pharmacist says: “He is a refugee with no home and no formal identity papers. Regardless of the real price, all the medication is 50 Kroner.” That’s less than 10 Dollars. This is Sweden – and I will pay my taxes with enthusiasm now and in the future.

Abu Bakr is smiling with his good eye. And he takes 1 Kroner (1.2 cents) out of his pocket and puts it on the desk for the doctor. He wants to pay for himself.

Picture No. 3

The Red Cross teams inside the train station are overwhelmed. A group of people with crying/screaming children crowd the interpreter and a few RC volunteers. They have no onwards ticket, they have no place to stay, their children are hungry. And a little boy runs around with his pacifier in his mouth, and one arm hanging limply in an odd angle from his petite frame. The transport coordinator asks me – You are good with hospitals, can you take the boy to the ER?

Zain is 3 years old. His sister Rawan is 4. Their father is alone, there is no mother and I do not know what happened to her. I also do not ask. Upon boarding the train in Vienna the little boy tripped and fractured his shoulder. He is so small, I would have taken him for 8-10 months, had it not been for his knowing eyes. They asked for help in Vienna, but they said not to worry, no need for X-ray, just board the train.

The local café offers the children food – the father insists on paying. He wants them to eat before we leave, because who knows when they will next get some food. I cannot explain, I am helpless without speaking Arabic. He pulls out a 5 EURO note to give the café, they refuse. He points at the Money Exchange office, wants me to watch the children. He wants to pay. I offer to exchange his money – and he gets a good rate. I give him 500 Swedish Kroner, t’s the only banknote in my purse, and he ceremoniously hands over his 5 EURO note.

At the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm, we wait. The nurse is certain it is broken, but timing is bad – it’s shift change hour and the doctors are in conference. The father had traveled with a group, but he is now afraid that his little family will be left behind. It will be hard for him with two very small children, and nobody to help him watch them. He already looks like he has not slept in a week. And he is badly malnourished. While we wait, the waiting room fills with other children – a small 2 year old waddles over and starts to play with little Zain. Zain is confused, then smiles and responds. They exchange books, move furniture and show each other the little box of juice they were given. Look what I have – I have one too.

The transport coordinator calls me from the station – the other group will leave on the train at 5 pm without Zain, Rawan and their father. They finally secured tickets and they have to look out for themselves. But I feel safe – this is Sweden. The father will not have to stand guard tonight over his few posessions and his little children with no mother. The volunteers at the Red Cross shelter will make sure he gets a good night’s sleep.

Before I hand them back to the Red Cross, I buy pacifiers for each of the children. They only had one each, and each time they dropped it the father had panicked. The little girl – Rawan – chooses two pretty little pink ones, and proudly shows them to all the Red Cross volunteers. As I leave, Zain has fallen asleep on his father’s shoulder wrapped in my jacket. I leave it. I ask the interpreter to say these words to him for good bye: “Thank you – it was an honour for me to be allowed to help you today.” The father nods, he holds my hand, but his grip is weak. He has no response. His too tired to form any words. And he is alone.

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