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Comment Re:This is the problem with corporate income tax. (Score 1) 448

The trouble with your suggestion is that sales taxes hit the poor far more than the rich. It's like an income tax where we say that we'll tax your first $20k at 40% but we'll drop it from there - great for revenue but shitty for equality. The goal of corporate tax is to prevent people screwing the system.

The reason is that you only need to pay sales tax on consumption, not on investments. This means that if I don't need to consume yet, then I can reinvest all my dividends and gain compounding on the whole amount. If we have company tax then I can't - the profit is taxed immediately rather than when it is consumed.

The other thing is that by taxing consumption, you're strongly encouraging me to consume in countries with lower sales tax. For example I can legally go on holiday and spend up big before returning to my more modest lifestyle. Encouraging your citizens to spend up big overseas does not help with balancing a company's books.

I personally agree with you about not taxing profit. However rather than taxing consumption I think we should tax assets. This makes it awkward for people with valuable assets that are not (yet?) generating revenue, and also encourages people to try and hide assets they own, but overall I think it works better.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 1) 110

That's a brilliant anecdote, do you mind if I use it?

I understand what you're saying. There's a lot of truth to it and there's a fair number of people who feel the same way as you. I still feel we're better with more personalisation than less, but you are absolutely right that there's an uncanny valley as the computer starts to understand you.

A few years ago I worked for a very large loyalty program where I built customer personas. One of our participating companies was a clothing retailer. Big brand, nothing special. When profiling I naturally found some people spent more on clothing than others. For example, "people who x spend twice as much a year on clothing at ". The creatives used these profiles to create the ads and so naturally they included stylishly dressed individuals. The problem is that everyone spends money on clothing, it's just we happened to only have data from that one brand.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 1) 110

There's a company called OpenDNA (as oposed to Elon's OpenAI) which is trying to develop an understanding of what everyone likes. Their idea is that they will expose it to you and you'll be free to make changes. I.e. it's your profile, and you get complete control. They'll then sell the ability to match products to customers based on the data they look after.

I have my doubts about whether they'll succeed. I'm not sure consumers are quite ready for being told where they sit on the premium to budget continuum, or that they like form over function... I'm also not convinced companies will go for putting their data insights into a commons that could benefit their competitors. Ignoring the business side of things, it's an interesting approach and brings up some nice thought experiments.

I don't know about personal assistants letting through offers from certain companies. Neither Google or Amazon have struck me as short-term thinkers. Compromising in that way would risk destroying the value which they've poured an insane amount of money into creating.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 1) 110

Yes, you can always get past once, but it's a dumb thing to do. I have that conversation frustratingly frequently - we build up a good base of highly engaged customers because we've consistently delivered something relevant. Then some stakeholder wants to push a particular product and has enough political clout to overrule me (the consultant).

In some ways their offer will succeed - it will generate more sales than if I had my way and only went to the people who cared about it. The damage it does to your reputation is much harder to highlight.

I don't have a good answer to this one - I've been trialling ways to put a value on the database' engagement so that we can more effectively measure the cost/benefit of different offers but I have had very little interest. I suspect it will need McKinsay or similar saying the same thing.

Incidentally, with Apple deliberately crippling their assistant in the interest of privacy, I think this will be an area where Google offers far more value.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 1) 110

It's not really my field, but what do you think of Hubspot and their inbound marketing? The basic idea is that you help the consumer with their research - trying to point them towards content that you think is what they need to know to make a decision. Obviously you want them to choose you, but the reason I'm bringing it up is that you're selecting information to help inform your decision rather than simply saying 'this product exists'.

I'm not going to comment on your list of invasive, etc as it's just not my area. I quite often have the same product available to promote in two different ways (e.g. a classy ad and an offensive one) and I'll try and select which variation would appeal best to each recipient. If the offensive one sells, then I view it as having appealed to that customer. If it caused them to opt-out then it very much didn't appeal.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 1) 110

I've been trying for a number of years, unfortunately with very little success. Even with clients I still get people expecting the computer to extract the topic of an email, but when I describe an approach of say TF/IDF they claim that is not AI and they don't like it. I suspect I'm better at implementing it than selling it.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 1) 110

AlphaGo is really interesting.

We use deep belief nets for product selection (with thumbs up/down as feedback). So far it has been pretty good at selecting individual products but the overall email is a poor representation of all products on offer. Contrast that with AlphaGo which played stong fuseki across all of its games. Perhaps like AlphaGo we need to bring in another layer and train that on 'any purchase' rather than positive engagement with the email.

The other place we don't do so well is that we have lots of models and so the chance one of them makes a dumb mistake in any particular situation is very high. I think AlphaGo's approach of having just 3 models works much better. We mask it from clients using a controlling program which only lets a model win frequently if we have high trust in its accuracy.

AlphaGo made a bunch of ugly moves that did not affect the result at all. I think that's a side effect of training for winning rather than aesthetics. A human would never play those ugly moves and really struggle with a tesuji which demanded it.

I know of TD-Gammon but never studied it, so can't comment there. The one Backgammon program that I dissected used rollouts so would be good at systematic analysis.

Comment Re:I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 3, Interesting) 110

I develop marketing automation software.

Kindly die in a fire, please.


You don't like interacting with companies that try to understand you? You'd rather receive the same generic product offers as everyone else?

I just don't believe this. I believe that the more a company tries to make their communication relevant for each customer, the more value the customer gets from the company. Incidentially I don't know if you've thought about the impact of AI personal assistants on marketing. If say Walmart sends you an offer that your personal assistant believes won't interest you then it will not show it to you. The only way that customers and customers are going to continue to interact is if the company can convince the customer that they have something worth listening to.

Anyway, best of luck to you. I hope this at least explains where I'm coming from.

Comment I agree - AI's strength is with details (Score 4, Insightful) 110

I develop marketing automation software. Lots of people talk about 'set and forget' on their marketing, where the AI takes care of everything. This is a really bad idea. Every time I've tried to do something like this it has backfired with the AI doing something spectacularly stupid.

Instead where I have had success is where the AI's role is to fill in the little details that would be boring for a human. Essentially the role of the AI is to tune rather than create. For example, the human might craft the first couple emails and then leave the AI to start moving sentences around for better effectiveness. It is completely unrealistic for people to craft the best message for every single person on their database, but it is perfectly reasonable for a person to produce the first ten or twenty and then leave a computer to fill in the gaps.

Similarly, feedback from the AI needs to go back to the human so they can provide guidance. For example: "the content was not very effective with this segment", and the human provides more training data on how to communicate with people who fall into that segment. I think about it as giving power to the human - adding richness and fine-tuning to all of their decisions. The AI is never in control. Even if almost all the decisions are made by the AI, it is always within the guidance provided by the human.

Maybe this will change one day; at the moment AI sucks at extrapolating but is awesome at interpolating. This means a human is going to do a far better job of setting strategy, but will quickly lose interest if they have to do every micro-execution.

PS: What's up with the article title. How about 'Elon Musk believes AI needs to augment humans instead of replacing them'?

Comment Re:California (Score 1) 428

I've got cedar shingles and am paying a lot of attention to this.

The roof is ~30 years old with an expected lifespan of 50 years depending on how often/effectively we treat it. The treatment is not cheap (due to health and safety, not the chemicals) and a replacement roof is really expensive. I've toyed with the idea of getting solar but rejected it because it's ugly and we have lots of branches land on the roof. Elon's new roof fixes the ugly problem, so only needs to handle branches and be roughly the same price.

I'd prefer not to be first though, I'm hoping to hear some more unbiased stores of how people get on with the roof.

Comment Re:Well, there goes the 4th Amendment again... (Score 1) 204

... and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath...

I am raising the amount of cards because seeing them all would, in my opinion, immediately reach the bar for probable cause.

Cop with a card reader sees a gift card
Cop does _not_ have probable cause and cannot use the presence of a gift card to get a warrant.

Cop with a card reader sees 143 gift cards
Cop now has probable cause and I would expect to have no difficulty obtaining a warrant.

If there were a bunch of legitimate reasons for having 143 gift cards lying around then their existence would not automatically create probable cause. That's why the number is important.

Comment Re:Well, there goes the 4th Amendment again... (Score 1) 204

Right. I used to work for a company that managed travel cards.

I can think of a bunch of reasons for wanting 143 cards, but they all relate to breaking the law. For example:
* You steal some credit card numbers and use them to rechard the cards. By the time the credit cards are invalidated it is too late, the money is safely on the card.
* You steal/bully the cards knowing that you can spend the money before they're blacklisted
* You have a friend that works at a dodgy retailer and recharge the cards knowing the retailer is going to have to foot the bill.

The cards contain quite a wealth of information (though most of it requires a signed key to query). For example you can find out the ID of the chip that signed the recharge request.

Personally I'd treat it roughly as suspicious as someone with 143 envelopes of money in their car. There might be a legitimate reason, but it's hellova suspicious.

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