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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers 316

An anonymous reader writes "After conquering Jeopardy! and making inroads into the diagnosis of medical maladies, IBM's next application for Watson is improving sales and customer support. Companies will be able to simply fill Watson (or rather, DeepQA) with domain-specific information about products and services, and sit back as it uses its natural language processing skills to answer the queries of potential customers. The potential benefits are huge. Watson could either augment existing sales and support teams, or replace them entirely. Also, in a beautiful and self-fulfilling twist, the first application of this re-purposed Watson will be be internally, at IBM, to help sell more IBM Watsons to other companies."
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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers

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  • Rubbish. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:13PM (#36676268)

    People love those automated voice systems at banks and other institutions, right?

    No, wait. They fucking hate them because they're universally horrible.

  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:17PM (#36676334) Journal

    You know these sales and marketing people were all behind the outsourcing and devaluing I.T. jobs because the sales and marketing people made money, not computer geeks. As a testament to their success they convinced accountants to label them as "profit centers" while I.T. was labeled a "cost center". Guess which one the executives choose to fund more of vs cutting the other?

    Now these same people are being outsourced and it is genius.

  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:36PM (#36676546) Homepage Journal

    A fork of Watson will support Watson.

  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:38PM (#36676562) Homepage
    When automation reduced industrial jobs, people could move into the service economy. But now automation is reducing service economy jobs. Where will they move to? While there's always some room for innovation, it's not impossible that we may reach a point where the majority of unemployed people simply cannot "move somewhere else".
  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:34PM (#36677060) Journal

    No, that will never be the case. Just as they predicted that computers would make for a 10-20 hour workweek.

    You see, we currently pay people in return for their time. $40,000 (or $80k, or $120k) buys you a person for a year. Now, whether they do 40 hours of work a week to produce TPS reports, or you give them a computer so they can produce the equivalent of 80 hours worth of TPS reports in a week, the market is for a week of time. Business owners understand this, and their income is based on then number of TPS reports.

    Let's say you've got 100 employees each making 10 TPS reports a week. Lets assume you are "right-sized" and there is only a market for 1000TPS reports in a week. Now you buy a Watson that can produce 100 TPS reports per person employed. Would you keep everybody on and let them work 4 hours a week, or would you fire 90 employees, keep the ten you need, pay the cost of Watson* with the savings in payroll, and pocket the extra?

    That's exactly what has happened over the past 40 years. We are getting more efficient, but it's not leading to shorter weeks - it's leading to higher unemployment, and higher unemployability. As things get more complex, fewer humans have the mental capacity to operate the machines of business efficiently.

    The more machines do, the "expendable" end of the human capability bell curve moves further to the right.

    *note: if at all possible, IBM will charge for Watson the annual sum of about 85 employees, including maintenance and upgrades, for licensing.

  • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:01PM (#36677364)

    No, that will never be the case. Just as they predicted that computers would make for a 10-20 hour workweek... We are getting more efficient, but it's not leading to shorter weeks

    A large part of this is a failure to adequately account for human nature, consumer culture and changes in wealth distribution. Back in the 60s and 70s and 80s when each new revolution in automation hit all the magazines and news programs were full of news that, since this wold double our productivity, in another decade everyone would have to work half as much.

    And it's true. As a society we could provide everyone from top to bottom with an 60's upper-middleclass lifestyle for only a day or two of work each week. Why didn't this happen? First, it relies on the idea that there is some fixed goal that everyone is working towards. That once everyone has filled their checklist of stuff they are done. Instead, there is always more stuff being made and marketed. Consumer culture is as much a moving target as productivity is. The supply expands to fill the available capital.

    More importantly, the people who enjoyed increased productivity are very rarely the people who benefit from it. If a factory doubles its output the owners don't double wages. It is the same across every industry. Word processing and e-mail didn't free up time for office workers. It just spelled the end of their secretaries.

    This is reflected in the real wages and income distribution of the last 40 years or so. Adjusted for inflation, real wages have actually fallen by about ten percent since the 60s. We are being paid less for higher efficiency. At one point the top 1% of the population received roughly 15% of the national income. Now the top 1% receives 24%. One quarter of every dollar earned in the USA goes to the top 1% every year. In the 50s CEO's salaries averaged about 30x what their average employee made. Now the ratio is often several thousand times.

    So massive gains in efficiency have been made. But those who enjoy the resulting gains are never those who are generating more work.

  • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:06PM (#36677404) Journal

    nobody who controls the machines is going to just give food and housing and water to people.

    example? health care. if you are a wal-mart part-time employee, and you get cancer, which something like 1/3 of people will, you have to declare bankruptcy. if you get a splinter in your foot and it gets infected, and you need time off work, you will probably get fired. and wal-mart can make a profit if you die on the job, because of something called 'dead peasant insurance'.

    wal-mart, with one of the most advanced IT departments in the world, did not use this new found wealth from machine automation to improve the lives of the people. it used it to cut costs, slash benefits, destroy unions, outsource production to military dictatorships, and so forth and so on.

    there are countless other examples.

    if these examples keep being ignored, we will be where we were in the early 1900s in europe . . . masses of starving people who had nothing to lose, and so joined revolutionary movements to overthrow the existing governments and try bizarre social experiments that ended in horror.

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:33AM (#36679774)
    Thing is, I've yet to hear a compelling solution to the problem of automation that doesn't just boil down to 1) Anyone w/o jobs dies of starvation or 2) Some form of socialism.

    That's because there isn't any. Either the society takes care of the weak, which is socialism, or it doesn't, in which case they die. And since power tends to accumulate - the more you have the easier it is to get yet more - almost all are weak.

    Also, I find it interesting that a society that's so big on democracy - distribution of political power to everyone - is nonetheless perfectly okay with the concentration of economic power into just a few hands. It seems your local robber barons certainly used Cold War effectively.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton