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IBM Patents Games

IBM's Patent To "Capture Expert Knowledge" With Games 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-known-as-theorycrafting dept.
theodp writes "Robert X. Cringely offers his take on IBM's patent-pending way to suck knowledge out of experts and inject it into younger, stronger, cheaper employees, possibly even in other countries. IBM's 'Platform for Capturing Knowledge' relies on immersive 3-D gaming environments to transfer expert knowledge held by employees 'aged 50 and older' to 18-25 year-old trainees, even those who find manuals 'difficult to read and understand.' It jibes nicely with an IBM White Paper (PDF) that advises CIOs to deal with Baby Boomers by 'investing in global resources from geographies with a lower average age for IT workers, such as India or China.' While Cringely isn't surprised that Big Blue's anyone-can-manage-anything, anyone-should-be-able-to-perform-any-job culture would spawn such an 'invention,' he can't help but wonder: When you get rid of the real experts, who is going to figure out the new stuff?"
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IBM's Patent To "Transfer Expert Knowledge" With Games

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  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @12:52PM (#29477077) Journal

    When you get rid of the real experts, who is going to figure out the new stuff?

    The masterminds on Slashdot.

    On an unrelated note, where can I sign up to be first man to be send to Mars again?

  • Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:02PM (#29477149)

    ...deal with Baby Boomers by 'investing in global resources from geographies with a lower average age for IT workers, such as India or China.'

    Yeah, I'm sure that's their motivation... (Nothing about salaries or insurance or taxes or any of that financial stuff.

    • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jurily (900488) <jurily@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:21PM (#29477279)

      Also the part about "even those who find manuals 'difficult to read and understand.'" makes me wonder just how much "expert knowledge" will actually survive the transition.

    • Companies exist to make money. They'd better be concerned about "that financial stuff."

      It's nice if they can pay nice salaries, provide insurance, and pay taxes. Sometimes it's necessary to have good employees and keep the government off your back.

      From IBM's Certificate of Incorporation [ibm.com]:
      Article Two - Purpose and powers The purpose of the Corporation is to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be organized and to exercise powers granted under the Business Corporation Law o
      • Re:Uh huh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:42PM (#29477415)
        Then don't bother with the disingenuous bullshit about "lower average age". Just say "We're putting middle-aged Americans out of work and sending it to countries with lower standards of living and more exploitative social settings because we can make more money that way". That wasn't so hard was it?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          They can't do that because they exist to make money, and being honest in this particular case would affect their bottom line. IBM just happens to be one of the many companies that place shareholders above all else, including ethics.
        • Exactly. Now, what can we (American citizens) do to help make American more of a friendly environment to do business in again? The answer should be fairly obvious.

          Hint: Educate yourself on future candidates prior to the next election cycle.

          • by ultranova (717540)

            Exactly. Now, what can we (American citizens) do to help make American more of a friendly environment to do business in again? The answer should be fairly obvious.

            Lower your standard of living until it matches the lowest on the planet, making you the most desperate and thus cheapest workers.

            Or you could put up toll barriers and make it illegal or at least extremely expensive for corporations to outsource, thus forcing them to serve the common good if they are to be successful in their quest for profits. A

      • The purpose of the Corporation is to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be organized

        One wonders how twisted business law must be to require such an article

    • ...deal with Baby Boomers by 'investing in global resources from geographies with a lower average age for IT workers, such as India or China.'

      Yeah, I'm sure that's their motivation... (Nothing about salaries or insurance or taxes or any of that financial stuff.

      That's a typo, it should should have read "with a lower average wage for IT workers".

    • It was a typo... what they meant to say was "geographies with a lower average (w)age"...

    • by Rik Rohl (1399705)

      Oh it reads age? My mind just glossed right over that and automatically put the w in there.

    • IBM has long had a tradition of leveraging a small number of competent employees to float a team of cogs that follow written instructions that a competent employee generates. The competent employee is often told that they are paid way more than "others in your job category" and the expert will be paged/called during night/vacation because no one else can solve issues that has not been seen and documented.

      My first week there my team lead took me aside and told me "You are too bright to work here, you should

  • can be transferred. I mean, how much can one actually learn from getting teabagged.

    My expertise in y0 face!
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)

      Is Apple even remotely aware that there is something called "quality control"?

      Sure. You want to control it so that shit doesn't get out-of-hand.

  • Yeah (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure the "Experts" are going to be really co-operative and forthcoming with the information...

    • by gnupun (752725)
      Ha ha, IBM is teh evil, but isn't this exactly what open source does as well? It distributes knowledge/skills/techniques of the 1337, embedded within various OSS programs, to a bunch of wannabes and n00bs. Now even idiot programmers can compete with the smart ones, which is great for mediocre, great for the OSS consumers, but reduces the salaries of the good programmers.
      It's imperative that such "knowledge leeching" techniques be banned from the workplace. Let's say the expert (expert in engineering, but
  • How's that going to help this quarter's earnings?
  • Wrong career. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tecnico.hitos (1490201) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:14PM (#29477223)

    ...to 18-25 year-old trainees, even those who find manuals 'difficult to read and understand.'

    Do these people have enough attention span to actually learn something? If they can't even read manuals, maybe they shouldn't be employed in tech related jobs...

    The Summary raises an interesting question: How you can have capable professionals if their learning process is dumbed down? We have a serious cultural problem. Idiocracy has taken over.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or the manuals are written in English, and IBM thinks that their "solution" is better than translating the manuals into Chinese.

      • Possibly (Score:2, Interesting)

        by NoYob (1630681)

        Or the manuals are written in English, and IBM thinks that their "solution" is better than translating the manuals into Chinese.

        The written word isn't that old in terms of human history. It was invented as the best way to use the current technology - making symbols in wet clay which was then moved to other materials then to paper and now to the computer screen. Before that it was oral. Writing isn't necessarily the best way to share information and it's the reason we have illustrations and photos and movies to help and augment the information being transmitted.

        As we become more and more sophisticated technologically, we will develo

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PPH (736903)

          Good point. But there's nothing new here. The written word is enhanced by pictures, charts, and tables. And, as recent (but not that recent) technology has allowed, embedded audio and video. But this isn't 'new' in the time scale of patents. We had embedded videos in aircraft functional tests and maintenance procedures years ago. Granted, it was a PITA back then, with only proprietary (and expensive) formats and input technologies. But the idea hasn't changed much with MPEG recording available in every cell

    • Re:Wrong career. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Angst Badger (8636) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:57PM (#29477505)

      Exactly what I was thinking. The group of people who "find manuals 'difficult to read and understand'" are not a target for software-based training methods -- at least, not outside grade school -- they are a target for replacement with software altogether.

      • Exactly what I was thinking. The group of people who "find manuals 'difficult to read and understand'" are not a target for software-based training methods -- at least, not outside grade school -- they are a target for replacement with software altogether.

        AFAIK we still don't have an AI which can read and understand manuals.

    • Training != experience I've had very little formal training since I graduated uni in 1986. But the experience I've garnered has made me a much better programmer. Ain't no way I could put all of that experience into some game for some rookie to learn in a few days. Not to mention that if I knew that the rookie was going to replace me, I'd be less than 100% motivated to put 100% of my knowledge into the system.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      Do these people have enough attention span to actually learn something? If they can't even read manuals, maybe they shouldn't be employed in tech related jobs...

      Who else is there? You take what the education system gives you and then after a while you get people that will read the manuals and eventually write new ones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Most manuals are fucking garbage. I don't know how many manuals I've gotten which are just plain wrong, and following the steps in them will lead to an entirely incorrect result, but the list is long and distinguished. Shit, I just installed a Bosch Aquastar 1600P-LP propane tankless water heater and the lighting instructions are incorrect — it tells you to slide the main front control to a symbol which does not exist because the heater silkscreen and the instruction sheet are out of sync. Add to this

  • Ehhm... How? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:15PM (#29477227) Journal

    Sorry for being ignorant, but where is the invention? Reading the "patent" (I really cannot call it that), I see a lot of buzzword bingo (hint: put XML on your list) and not a single shard of how they want to accomplish that task. They do not explain what the interviewer has to do. I think that interviewer has to be an expert in his field himself.

    Furthermore, the text does not say how the knowledge is extracted from an interview, other than that it is "semantically parsed". Where is the invention itself? A system that COULD extract "knowledge" (if you can define the word at all) should be brilliant in itself. Now a patent should be explaining the invention and I cannot see the inventions themselves. Only that those mystery inventions are applied, and it is the application of those magical inventions that seems to be patented here.

    Furthermore, a magic box that could convert boring knowledge (I DO read manuals) to games is also high order magic to Ponder about. As a side note, I'd rather look up the manual page than blast all those aliens to their deaths first.

  • "When you get rid of the real experts, who is going to figure out the new stuff?""

    A big employment issue IBM & companies in general have is finding new employees who might become super creative and innovative.

    Multiple choice employment forms and interviews only give clues.

    • Big companies like IBM are hard to get into. Therefore the folks who get in are typically very competetive or they don't survive the filter. Creative people are typically more of the self-actualization types who realize the only thing they're really competing with is their potential. It's a self-defeating system.

      • Citation please. My own perception is the creativity and competitiveness are separate, unrelated traits. Seve Ballesteros, the golfer, was incredibly competitive, and quite creative in his approach to the game. Dale Chiluly, the glass artist, is by all accounts highly competitive in his field.

        I've turned down jobs at IBM. They aren't -that- selective.

    • by mikael (484)

      I had an uncle who worked in IBM - they were doing lots of interesting work, but the downside was that he found himself being moved all over the world - Glasgow, California, Europe, so the nickname "I've Been Moved" was accurate.

      In the past, they had some attractive sounding positions - 3D visualisation engineers/architects. But if they have a policy of shuffling people between different research groups, then what's the point of working for them if they are just going to move you away from your area of expe

  • I see two problems (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:21PM (#29477275)
    First

    relies on immersive 3-D gaming environments to transfer expert knowledge held by employees

    This sort of interactive interface seems to be better suited to capture or refine 'gut feeling' reactions, instinctive responses to situations (like threats, etc.) rather than carefully thought out strategies for solving problems. Its better for developing quick reactions to problems like "Which alien do I shoot first?" I mean, what sort of 'immersion' does one use to extract knowledge from an expert? An avatar of a PHB screaming at employees to hurry up and get the engineering done fast? That's not the sort of knowledge we need to capture (witness the ongoing saga of the Boeing 787).

    I'd look for more of a text or conversational based Q and A system. But here's a problem for IBM. We've had those for a few decades now. They work just fine. No new patents needed here.

    he can't help but wonder: When you get rid of the real experts, who is going to figure out the new stuff?"

    When I see an industry starting down this trail, I think, "This industry is dying. Management doesn't see any future in product or process improvements. Where should I be investing my money now?"

    • What is so interesting is that IBM has already encountered this problem with Deep Blue and Kasparov.

      They codified Chess and threw processor power at it to "solve the problem". "Wrong answers" were calculated by the millions and discarded.

      All to beat one man and what he learned in one lifetime. What Kasparov learned was: Don't see the bad solutions.

      So they can virtually train as many people as they want with expert knowledge, they are still going to face the problem of Big Blue:

      To replace a worker who can "s

  • Capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlwmohawk (801821) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:37PM (#29477373)

    I'm mostly a capitalist. I generally think I should be paid for work that I do, however, there is a sense of dignity missing in the rush to the bottom attitude of raw unbridled capitalism that is disgusting.

    Money "right now" greed will be the destruction of capitalism and the end of democracy as we know it. Democracy depends on an independent society. As the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, the notions of government and individual rights and dignity become less relevant. What good are environmental laws, worker safety laws, tax rates, etc. when corporations can just go to some 3rd world shit-hole and work those people for cheap. Then, if they have the temerity to demand rights and pay, then the corporation will just jump to the next shit-hole and exploit those workers.

    Maybe I'm old fashioned, but man-kind evolved a social structure that worked. It was a balance of personal avarice and societal responsibility. One was supposed to have an amount of greed BUT! Also have an amount of social responsibility. The community protected itself against threats. The well-to-do (from hunter gatherers to railroad tycoons) knew they needed the protection and/or good will of the community to survive, so, while they lived better than most, they made sure their wealth also provided for the society that allowed them to be successful.

    Once the society stops taking care of itself and it is an "everyman for himself situation," civilization is over. There must be a notion of a common good. There must be a notion of âoefor the good of society,â even in capitalism. It is a race to the bottom and no good can come from abandoning the stake holder for the sole purpose of enriching the share holder. There must be a balance between greed and society or we will lose both our wealth and our civilization.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jazcap (1125477)
      There are precedents to IBM's behavior. A "use them up, spit them out" attitude to the workforce is common where "raw unbridled capitalism" prevails. Examples that come to mind are the factory system in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, and the sex industry.

      Capitalism is the most successful economic system, and is greed-driven, but it needs checks and balances built into it to allow it to be as beneficial as possible to society as a whole.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dpilot (134227)

        "Capitalism" is worshipped far too much around this place.

        It's a tool, not an end. Greed is a tool, not an end. Both make terrible masters. Better yet, the way we're practicing it, capitalism is unstable, as Karl Marx predicted. As you say, it takes checks and balances to stabilize it. Today's problem is that those who have want more, and have advanced the art of buying politicians and legislators to advance their cause - removing those checks and balances.

        Where it goes from here - fewer and fewer havi

        • Fuedalism. But that's not stable, either.

          Oh, I don't know about that. Feudalism lasted for a thousand years. How's liberal democracy looking after 200 years and some change?

          • by dpilot (134227)

            Feudalism didn't last continually for 1000 years. The overall system was in place, but it periodically and bloodily switched from one feudal power group to another. Until you look a little closer, the historical view was "continuous", but it was full of those little "speed bumps."

            I would further predict that with a world now filled to overflowing, feudalism will be even less stable. Many parts of the world are habitually on the edge of disaster these days. Even without some sort of disruption - like a c

    • by maxume (22995)

      The 20th century is overwhelmingly a story of the poor getting richer. The rich might have gotten even richer, but the average poor person from 1900 would be happy to be an average poor person from 2000. And that is despite having to share resources with about 3 times as many people.

      The thing we need to do though is look at corporations more critically; the supposed behind them is that they promote investment (by limiting personal liability), which is good for society. If they aren't benefiting society, the

      • Re:Capitalism (Score:5, Insightful)

        by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:59PM (#29478223)
        The 21st century, on the other hand, is a story of the middle class becoming poor, the poor becoming drug dealers, and the rich becoming insanely rich.
        • by maxume (22995)

          Maybe in the U.S., at least a little bit. If you look to the rest of the world, more people are becoming middle class in India and China than even live in the U.S.

    • > There must be a notion of a common good

      Don't we also need to treat workers in India as if they were part of our society, and elevate them as well, and be responsible for their training and their education? Society is global now. What benefits them will, in the long term, benefit us too. It is already the case that wages in India are rising sharply because of the American demand for their labor; the money flowing into that country will educate them, but IBM can take care of its own as well.

      There's al

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by radtea (464814)

        . Companies will retain workers that are valuable, regardless of where they're from.

        Sure they will--just look at what Circuit City did. No company would ever lay off its most valuable, experienced workers in a vain attempt to shore up the bottom line.

        Workers need to get with the program: all companies everywhere treat you like a resource that is disposable at the first whim of a PHB. Workers should therefore treat employment as nothing but a long-term consulting gig and always be on the lookout for the n

    • What good are environmental laws, worker safety laws, tax rates, etc. when corporations can just go to some 3rd world shit-hole and work those people for cheap. Then, if they have the temerity to demand rights and pay, then the corporation will just jump to the next shit-hole and exploit those workers.

      Eventually you run out of shit-holes. Sure it really sucks in the meantime, but sooner or later there will be no cheaper place to go and that point the pendulum starts to swing back in the other direction. That's essentially what happened in most of the western world - we were all shit-holes once, back in the days of industrial revolution. Then they ran out of available shit-holes and we started to see reforms. All that's happened today is that modern shipping and communications have opened up the final

      • Re:Capitalism (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dpilot (134227) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @05:52PM (#29479051) Homepage Journal

        Or consider it to be recycling or crop-rotation, at the national level. As consumer demand picks up in India and China, the multinationals can jettison the US completely, workers and consumers both. The US becomes so badly depressed that in another generation they become the next workforce to be exploited, when the Indians and Chinese start to become too expensive. The crop rotation scheme is probably more complex than this, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear that some people are actually thinking this way.

        One fly in the ointment... At some point businesses will start to home-grow in India and China, and decide that those overpaid (formerly US) multinational executives are an unnecessary expense - and jettison them.

        One other fly... All things really aren't fungible. Sometimes it takes time and humility to know what is and isn't.

        • One fly in the ointment... At some point businesses will start to home-grow in India and China, and decide that those overpaid (formerly US) multinational executives are an unnecessary expense - and jettison them

          It has been happening already. Maybe best known example is Wipro.

    • You are also talking about the Gilded Age if you don't know it, at least in reference to what's going on economically now. Noblesse oblige is a concept in which the rich, the tycoons, the aristocrats, the upper 1%'ers gave back to the society from which they took so much, usually in the form of higher wages for their employees or through charitable act to the community at large. This was not so much out of any altruistic sense, but rather the idea that they cannot continue to be affluent if the society at

  • by retchdog (1319261) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @01:51PM (#29477467) Journal

    The innovation will come from acquiring startups.

    The rank-and-file workers of modern mega-corporations are basically welfare recipients. Their tangible day-to-day contributions, if there in fact are any, are dispersed through a miasma of powerpoints and politics. Reward is likewise twisted as it mapped through this noise. This patent/methodology is not surprising at all; in fact I find it rather fascinating, in that it's a black-and-white acceptance of the fact that most employees are superfluous.

    • Ah, so the "interview" is really a "job interview". You basically buy or recruit an expert and "milk" his knowledge. There's plenty of prior art in that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gwappo (612511)
      Parent is absolutely right, and this is true of many large companies today. Within IBM, there is too much focus on saving a dollar and doing things on the cheap, while missing the bigger picture and becoming ever distant to one's customers through intertwined cogs and wheels of process bureaucracy. There is a very strong innovative drive by doing your development in regions that have strong universities, a culture for innovation and local use and appreciation of the end product. Where that is depends on wha
      • by Glonoinha (587375)

        You haven't heard about any genuine software innovations from IBM lately?
        How about the System S [geek.com]? Real-time stream processing for assertive data analysis, a sort of artificial intelligence system that you just feed streams of data and it identifies nifty nuggets of info it came up with via correlation. It's pretty bad ass, and I wish I could get my hands on it.

        • by gwappo (612511)
          That admittedly is pretty cool - but IBM has (last time I checked) 320,000 employees; so would you agree the point I'm trying to make still holds?
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      That makes no sense, if there's one thing that modern companies are really good at, it's getting rid of excess employees.
  • by tjstork (137384)

    IBM.. those are the guys that used to know how to make computers, chips and operating systems, and now they don't know how to do anything. If you really wanted to get some tech knowledge, why would you ask a bunch of washed up losers?

  • by scoove (71173) on Saturday September 19, 2009 @03:14PM (#29477967)

    We have a similar misconception in the information technology risk management world (actually, the greater risk world as well) where executive management mistakenly believes that compliance practices will eliminate risk. Even if we have 100% compliance with regulations (like PCI) and standards (like ISO 27000 series, CoBIT, ITIL, etc.) and could have an imaginary 100% effectiveness in the controls provided by these regulations/standards, we'd only eliminate known risk.

    Consider what regulations and checklists provide to assess risk: a checklist. And where does the checklist come from? Previous situations where we had problems occur. We learned, for instance, that simple 6 character passwords suck and are easily bruteforced, so the checklist asks if passwords are longer than 8 characters, have complexity, etc. But no checklist can ask for what problems we haven't encountered yet. So while we'll have regulators, external assessors, internal auditors and other compliance professionals examine an environment on a periodic basis, it will never substitute for a risk program that uses methods for uncovering risk from the un-checklisted and unknown terrain. Advanced techniques, such as those that use approaches that illuminate the risk domain through the creation and exploration of new vantage points, efforts that shock the perspective comparable to critical theory's radicalization, or those that de/reterritorialize and allow us to apply different thought models to a domain (e.g. looking at network attacks from a rhizomic, not a hierarchical model which reflects how a DDoS attack might manifest) are all non-checklist methods to assess risk.

    Interestingly, these approaches are not able to be appropriated by a hierarchical expert-system approach. Consider how expert systems create decision-trees, subject to all the Deleuzian problems (Galloway's books http://cultureandcommunication.org/galloway/ [cultureand...cation.org]Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization, or his work with Gene Thacker, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks, are both exceptionally valuable in understanding non-hierarchy problems in information technology). Plus such expert systems are subject to countless other problems known to information theorists and end up creating predictable paths through the model, to which any information system will adapt, and regress to the mean. Consider this example: if the IBM expert system is employed in the information security realm, it will specify a predictable path to responding to any security incident. Any information system will naturally recognize this predictable response and then use it against the system. This basic technique is already employed by most competent hackers -- measuring, testing, assessing your target to learn of the quality of their response to your efforts.

    In other words, any organization that would rely upon this service from IBM will be a predictable, exploitable target. They might as well publish the blueprints of their network and list user names and passwords. God help the fools that believe that knowledge is static and life is not competitive.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    There was an old SF short story about this kind of thing. Career education became an immediate process where the knowledge required to fill a job was injected into people. But those injections would be updated regularly, so that students given a more recent injection learned newer concepts than their peers, and had a better career as a result. But none of these students were able to invent anything new.

    The main character in the story is a kid who broke a rule, and read up on his career choice before he was

  • by alizard (107678) <alizard@ec i s . com> on Saturday September 19, 2009 @06:30PM (#29479307) Homepage
    Who cares?

    Incumbent CEOs who fire their experts will have left the company and cashed out their options long before "new stuff" can become a problem.

    It's their successors who will have to deal with the results. And of course, their customers.
  • The consulting company McKinsey has knowledge management and transfer down to a T -- pairing and making available ANY older expert anywhere in the world available to any younger (really any) consultant.

    The US Navy also excels in their job short-term job rotation -- how does a entire carrier operate (as a system) with so many new people in roles they've never held before.....think about it....

  • "When you get rid of the real experts, who is going to figure out the new stuff?" Interesting question. Why not ask the former management of Circuit City?
  • I have prior art that invalidates this patent attempt. My theses work from 1986 long predates this and did the same thing. If IBM pushes this patent they stand to lose.
  • I have prior art on this dating back to 1986 in my thesis work. If IBM pushes this patent they will lose.

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