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

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the also-known-as-theorycrafting dept.

IBM 97

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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97 comments

Teh Real Experts (3, Funny)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477077)

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?

Re:Teh Real Experts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477277)

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.'

why not give them some hooked on phonics instead of accommodating all these functionally illiterate fucks. seriously, bunch of pathetic whiners complaining about how shit like RTFM is "too hard". no it's called reading comprehension, if you can't do it you're a retard it's that simple

cotton niggers, sand niggers, rice niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477693)

kill all niggers

Re:cotton niggers, sand niggers, rice niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29480403)

nah, kill all the white liberals first. if it weren't for them the niggers wouldn't be a problem.

Re:Teh Real Experts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29478579)

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

Foreigners aren't all stupid, you know. They can become experts too.

Uh huh (4, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (4, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Uh huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479023)

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.

Yes, If they cannot read the manuals, maybe someone else should read them.

Re:Uh huh (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477309)

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 of the State of New York, provided that the Corporation shall not engage in any act or activity requiring the consent or approval of any state official, department, board, agency, or other body without such consent or approval first being obtained.

Which really doesn't tell you anything, but there's not any mention of existing to try to employ people with nice salaries and insurance.

Re:Uh huh (4, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Uh huh (3, Insightful)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478955)

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.

Re:Uh huh (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29480601)

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.

Re:Uh huh (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#29481577)

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. All it takes is giving up the idea that economic freedom for the rich trumps everything else.

Re:Uh huh (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477863)

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

Re:Uh huh (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477613)

...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".

Re:Uh huh (1)

machinegestalt (452055) | more than 4 years ago | (#29480351)

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

Re:Uh huh (1)

Rik Rohl (1399705) | more than 4 years ago | (#29487207)

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

Experts are overworked and underpaid (1)

zstlaw (910185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29492529)

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 go work at a small company in a big city" It took me years to realize that he was spot on. Basically I was exploited to float an entire department. I was underpaid and overworked. I did have an excellent manager and received many awards and recognitions, but I was offered 30% more to work the same job somewhere else with many more benefits.

In general IBM loves replaceable cogs because it gives stability. They are inexpensive and very easy to replace with any recent graduate. You could think of many jobs being very simular to help desk where you have levels of competence which funnel up to one or two people who are generally underpaid and overworked as they support an entire department worth of work.

My best friend and I both had technical expert roles at IBM. Our experience was that most employees have no ability to research new issues. I could send a person to the correct page of the correct manual and they still could not understand the problem from reading the manual. My friend was flown all around and given any project that used any device new to the team. (Which he then wrote the red papers on) But it was a kick in the nuts to find that half the team was paid more than you due to seniority and yet had to follow the instructions you left behind.

I automated a full department's worth of work. When I left I literally had 10 minutes of work each day because if I had automated the scripts so my colleagues would stop screwing them up. The team managed to justify its continued existence for a couple years after I left by making graphs to explain the data my scripts had collected. With that level of "innovation" you can hardly afford not to outsource.

There are limits to the amount of knowledge that (0, Troll)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477159)

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

My expertise in y0 face!

Re:There are limits to the amount of knowledge tha (0, Offtopic)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477315)

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 (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477165)

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

Re:Yeah (1)

gnupun (752725) | more than 4 years ago | (#29481689)

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 clueless idiot in business) transfers knowledge of a technique that saves the company $10million/yr but only gets paid $50 (his hourly wage) for his genius. How is this not abuse?

New Stuff? (1)

bandy (99800) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477217)

How's that going to help this quarter's earnings?

Wrong career. (4, Insightful)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Wrong career. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477353)

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

Possibly (2, Interesting)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477419)

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 develop better methods of propagating information from one to another. Call it 3D, virtual reality, or alternative learning, there will be better ways and some would argue that there are better ways than the printed word: learning by discovery has been my personal favorite. The printed word is just too limited to share information completely; hence experience comes into play. If the manuals were enough, experience would be a no factor.

Re:Possibly (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477591)

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 phone and standards for embedding content in web pages. We also had systems that engineers could use to capture knowledge using a Q and A session that distilled underlying rules and techniques for linking into process and design standards.

Nothing worthy of a patent here. Nothing new to see. Move along now.

Re:Possibly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479877)

...learning by discovery has been my personal favorite.

No nukes for you.

Re:Wrong career. (3, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wrong career. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477627)

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.

Re:Wrong career. (3, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479619)

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

Certainly. But most of the tasks performed by people who can't read and understand manuals can probably be performed by software, excepting menial physical labor that will eventually be performed by robots.

Re:Wrong career. (1)

eli pabst (948845) | more than 4 years ago | (#29481245)

Sure we do. Write the manual in C instead of English.

Re:Wrong career. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29482105)

I though it would be enough to write a manual that one can read _and_ understand... yet looking at IBM docs I can get see the point.

Re:Wrong career. (1)

FrozenGeek (1219968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29480527)

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.

Re:Wrong career. (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#29481845)

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:Wrong career. (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#29482745)

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 the fact that most tech writers have apparently never actually spoken to another human being and you get most modern documentation. I had to reverse examples in the HP IPSEC guide before they would work. Talk about amateur hour. Too bad most documentation is shit.

Ehhm... How? (4, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477227)

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.

Larger Issue: Creative New Solutions (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477251)

"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.

Here's a clue (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477375)

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.

Re:Here's a clue (1)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29480427)

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.

Re:Here's a clue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29488215)

Having spent about 15 years working for IBM and its competitors, I have say that they are difficult to get into in the same way that getting a permit to move house was difficult in the Soviet Union - the barrier is the bureaucracy.

Also, the attrition rate is pretty high amongst grads, and lately the ones who have been jumping have been the more creative and self motivated ones. The boys and girls who are good at doing what they are told and keeping up with all the different forms and checklists tend to be the ones who hang around.

I'm pretty sure that eventually lack of flexibility will cause some sort of hickup at Big Blue.

Re:Larger Issue: Creative New Solutions (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477459)

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 expertise?

I see two problems (4, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?"

Re:I see two problems (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 4 years ago | (#29491069)

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 "see" the right solution because of experience you use significant replacement resources to evaluate "wrong answers" and discard them. (Maybe... they sometimes pick the wrong answer and run with it)

What IBM is doing is getting plenty of cheap labor and placing a few "Kasparovs" in charge of them. Presumably, the "Kasparov" will make sure the labor does not run with the "wrong answers".

Pretty much how my Virtual team works. The US side of the team is command and control, we evaluate problems as they come in and then point the Global Resource guys at the right procedure/process to follow.

Procedures and documents come from vendors and both sides of the team. I know what you are thinking: once everything is documented, we are out of jobs.

Sorta, but not really. The reality of getting people to make the same quality of decision as a "Kasparov" from the options presented in documentation is very difficult.

However brilliant the GR team members have been, they all seem to be very risk adverse. They do not like making decisions and they do not want to be at fault lest the lose their job. Just too many hungry sharks at the door waiting for a job.

All this is possible because right now the computer field is relatively stagnate. We are in that lull that existed just before the PC and then the Internet. (there are more than two of those lulls, but those are the ones I saw)

When those happen, you better be able to acquire the knowledge to deal with the change.

IBM is betting the farm that they can.

Capitalism (4, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Capitalism (2, Insightful)

jazcap (1125477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477479)

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:Capitalism (2, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479101)

"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 having more and more, more and more having less and less. Fuedalism. But that's not stable, either. The have-nots periodically die from plagues and such, raising the competition for labor, raising wages, creating a middle class, etc.

Oh well.

Re:Capitalism (1)

Amiga Trombone (592952) | more than 4 years ago | (#29480505)

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?

Re:Capitalism (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#29486615)

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 change to feudalism - some sort of massive die-off is not that unlikely. There are some that believe that the real Renaissance was caused by the plagues, and the fact that the lives of the survivors, as pay rates rose because of a tighter labor market.

Re:Capitalism (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477587)

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, they maybe they shouldn't enjoy that limited liability.

Re:Capitalism (4, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Capitalism (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478481)

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.

Re:Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29478725)

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.

Only 5% (~50M) of india's population is considered "middle class" - give them a few more decades and that might get to 40%, assuming the current financial crisis hasn't derailed things. China's at roughly 14% or 185M. Together that's plenty less than the 300M population of the USA.

Re:Capitalism (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478757)

If we are going to be pedantic, I get the whole 21st century, not just the 40 years it would take for India alone to get to 400 million.

Re:Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479569)

I don't think you know what that word means. Although it is clear what you wish it meant.

Aren't you making IBM's point? (1)

xant (99438) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477633)

> 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 also an assumption that hiring outsourced workers means "letting middle-aged workers go". This need not be the case. Companies will retain workers that are valuable, regardless of where they're from.

Re:Aren't you making IBM's point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477673)

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

If two workers are equally valuable in terms of their ability to contribute, but one of them will work for cheaper due to young age or location, which one do you think the company will keep? They could hire 2 or more outsourced workers for the cost of one middle-aged American worker.

Re:Aren't you making IBM's point? (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478583)

. 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 next one, and take it the moment there is a compelling reason to do so, regardless of any feelings of loyalty the PHBs might try to instill in their more manipulative moments.

Re:Aren't you making IBM's point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479123)

The notion of retaining workers that are valuable sounds good, until you have to decide how to define the value of a particular worker. What makes one worker more valuable than the next? At IBM, impact on quarterly financial statements in the form of wages and benefits is at least as important as experience or skill. Yes, it's absurdly short-sighted, but that's how they think - one or two financial quarters at a time.

Re:Capitalism (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478669)

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 frontier of shit-holes, but that will only last for so long.

One might even argue that the faster the 3rd world is exploited, the sooner the world will get to that bottom its been racing to and there will be nowhere to go but up for people of all countries, not just the 1st world.

Re:Capitalism (3, Insightful)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479051)

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.

Re:Capitalism (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 4 years ago | (#29481545)

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.

Re:Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479979)

The problem is that this could take a 100 years, which means the rest of us will lead substantially shittier lives.

You are talking about "noblesse oblige"... (1)

ElboRuum (946542) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479259)

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 large suffers. The Gilded Age that followed bears a striking resemblance to the "race to the bottom" capitalism that exists now, that somehow there will always be cheaper labor, there will always be shelters from tax, there will always be room for growth, and people should consider themselves lucky that they have a job.

Not surprisingly... the Gilded Age was followed by the Great Depression.

Re:Capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29483633)

"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."

I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one. What time period is this fantastical civilization supposed to have existed? And "railroad tycoons"????? You do know they exploited the people of the community just as badly, if not worse, than what the corporations are doing in the "shit-holes"? The term Robber Baron had to come from somewhere.

Re:Capitalism (1)

Stropp (1599677) | more than 4 years ago | (#29511625)

Groups of humans have existed in cooperative family/tribal groups for far more of human history (even if you don't take into account pre-history) than humanity has been worshipping at the shrine of individuality. These social groups gave greater weight to the good of the group than they did to the good of the individual (dare I say socialism) simply because it made survival far easier.

So the OP is partly right. Humans did evolve a social structure that worked for a long period of time. It wasn't necessarily the golden age civilisation that he inferred, but it did work and got us to where we are today, and it's where we'll end back up if civilisation ever does collapse completely.

new stuff comes from acquisitions (3, Interesting)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477467)

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.

Re:new stuff comes from acquisitions (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477535)

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:new stuff comes from acquisitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477649)

That is exactly how IBM works. They are one of the least innovative companies I know of. They just cannibalize the innovative companies and people, and move on.

Re:new stuff comes from acquisitions (2, Interesting)

gwappo (612511) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478493)

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 what you're doing. For cars, southern germany, for the web, california, for finance NYC and London.

However, by outsourcing everything to China and India, you loose that innovative drive, which erodes your longer term growth.

This is fine in only two cases I think, A) you don't care about the innovation of what you're developing (it's not your core business), or B) the type of work you're doing is extremely expensive *and* specialized (eg. chip design & manufacturing,) making it hard for an upstart to compete with you, even if your work is sloppy.

IBM rarely innovates anymore aside from some of its hardware, I'm not aware of any genuine software innovations from IBM in, say, the last 10 years.

The way large companies seem to be doing it now is by acquiring their way into innovation. I'm happy they do, because it makes startups that more valuable to do. Perhaps if large companies are changing their game, we engineers should wake up and adapt ours.. do more startups?

Re:new stuff comes from acquisitions (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478987)

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.

Re:new stuff comes from acquisitions (1)

gwappo (612511) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479037)

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?

Re:new stuff comes from acquisitions (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29491813)

That makes no sense, if there's one thing that modern companies are really good at, it's getting rid of excess employees.

Goats are smarter than men (1)

sanctimonius hypocrt (235536) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477501)

Re:Goats are smarter than men (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29478339)

talking goats! What madness is this!

How the hell is this patentable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477615)

No one has come up with an educational game before? Educational game makers have never gotten material from experts before?

expert != old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29477813)

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

The article implies that any 'real' expert *must* be of middle age, and that young people can't be experts by definition. I think that's unrealistic: being an expert or not has nothing to do with age. Young people can be just as expert as middle aged people, and they *can* be 'real' experts to figure out the new stuff.

Re:expert != old (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29478285)

I think that's unrealistic: being an expert or not has nothing to do with age.

I used to think that when I was 20-something, but now I realize that I was just kidding myself and that being bright and fast is no substitute for experience.

Re:expert != old (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479055)

'Expert' however has little to do with experience.

In youth has to do with narrow focus to the exclusion of everything else.

Most old people know better, we just know a thing or two about databases.

All the mySQL 'experts' are kids.

Re:expert != old (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29481685)

Oh I wonder how many times has a company been fucked over because some kid who likes to toy with MySQL designed a schema.

Too late for IBM... (0, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29477823)

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?

Re:Too late for IBM... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29478631)

Because some of their guys know more than you will ever learn.

Risk management analog (2, Informative)

scoove (71173) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29478011)

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 given the injection. Instead of injecting him, they confined him to a room and encouraged him to read more books. He thought this was punishment at first, but then realized that he and the people like him, who valued the quest for knowledge over the following of procedure, were the people given the task of learning the old wayâ" through booksâ" and inventing new things.

Does anyone out there remember the title of this story? I can't place it.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479073)

Asimov I think.

One of his story collections.

I don't recall the story name ether.

"who's going to figure out the new stuff?" (3, Insightful)

alizard (107678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479307)

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.

Re:"who's going to figure out the new stuff?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29480921)

By that point, what customers?

ask Circuit City (1)

alizard (107678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29486251)

never mind, you can't.

Experts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479613)

I really like this whole idea of "capturing knowledge"...

It reminds me a lot of ghostbusters, where they had plasmatron-whevers that would snare the ghosts.

They should just build little boxes that "capture knowledge", and hook experts directly up to it for a few seconds.
That way, knowledge learned by experts over 20 years can be stored, and then they can just ask the boxes how to build Quantum Computers, or rockets, or solve energy problems.

Better yet, if you want a super-smart knowledge system to solve global problems, you just connect up several of these blocks together like legos.

Eh Who Cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29479741)

Life is a bitch then you die.. .get over it and go do something

McKinsey and the US Navy are masters of KM/KT (1)

teambpsi (307527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29479951)

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....

Beware of Intellectual Property Theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29480657)

If you are dealing with IBM, the absorption of experience and skills from older employees to younger ones using their techniques and processes has one major catch: Whatever you let IBM see becomes their property to re-use anywhere and with anyone (including your competitors) at any time.

You try to get IBM to sign a contract where they agree to penalties for loss of your intellectual property, your corporate secrets, your edge in the market and you'll see they'll never agree to it.

Beware! These games serve a dual objective. The first is to help you be dependent on their processes to keep your IT going. The other, more sinister objective is to steal you blind of any intellectual property you have that makes your business successful.

Incompetent, Greedy Management (1)

Stupid Crunt (1627025) | more than 4 years ago | (#29482005)

"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?

Prior Art Exists (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29482323)

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.

Prior Art Exists (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 4 years ago | (#29482331)

I have prior art on this dating back to 1986 in my thesis work. If IBM pushes this patent they will lose.

Screw the Xers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29482557)

What really kills me is the focus on the Boomers ("O Great and Seminal Generation") and the Millennials ("O Naive and Brilliant ReBoomers") while in between the Gen Xers ("Cynical Boomerwannabes")are kicked to the side. Obviously all the real experts are Boomers--those Gen Xers never amounted to anything.

Unless it's us Xers who are shoving the Boomers into retirement. Then that's cool.

Re:Screw the Xers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29487253)

What really kills me is the focus on the Boomers ("O Great and Seminal Generation") and the Millennials ("O Naive and Brilliant ReBoomers") while in between the Gen Xers ("Cynical Boomerwannabes")are kicked to the side. Obviously all the real experts are Boomers--those Gen Xers never amounted to anything.

Unless it's us Xers who are shoving the Boomers into retirement. Then that's cool.

As an "Xer" myself I'll go ahead and bite.

I think you read too much into this. Really. The reason Boomers and Millenials are mentioned and Xers are not is that Xers are in mid-career now. They aren't typically in the rarified air of lifetime-experienced near-retirees. Xers have years ahead of them and presumably years to go before becoming ivory tower haunting super-experts.

There are exceptions like the fellas at Google... but that's not who we're talking about here. We're talking about normal everyday experts. You know... the kind that wear tweed vests.

What I can see from the picture Cringely has kindly posted IBM has patented information exchange that is stored in some form of XML and played back in some form of game. Well, I for one am impressed with the innovative use of XML. Wait... no I'm not. Never mind.

What I really see when I look at this patent is reading and writing. What? What do you suppose reading and writing are exactly? They are means of storing knowledge in a format and then playing it back in a simulation inside the human mind. In its perfect platonic state this system would allow you to game all the experience of a person and replay it. Much like a really obscenely well written book.

When a person really reads a work of fiction the shadows cast on the cave wall of their minds are the ones projected by the author. In the course of the story the reader takes a journey scripted by the author and learns the lessons the author intends whether overtly or covertly. This system is nothing more and nothing less. It might be a notch up from reading a book since it can be made to be interactive and you can pantomime your responses virtually experiencing your failures. The experience of the failure (even if virtual) is probably better than a gray-hairs lecture about why you shouldn't do something anyhow.

The outcome of the failure scenario? That's going to be from the mind of your expert too. So you have all the dynamics of expertise working against you. Remember expertise isn't a magical elixir. One reason for the Titanic's accident was that her captain's experience told him the ship could turn tighter than it did... experience sunk the Titanic as much as anything else.

So back to why the gen-Xers are irrelevant in these discussions.

Firstly, the crass and partly mean reasons: gen-Xers are about as expensive to employ as Boomers. Xers are having families now. They have to have health care and vacations. They care about work-life balance and other baloney. While your typical Millenial has still got something to prove. They don't have families. They don't know they should care about health care yet... and work-life balance for them means time out to play Halo.

Secondly, the relevant and pragmatic reasons: As a person ages they become invested in the status quo of the world they were successful in. The trappings that made an Xer and expert are part of what they'll cling to now and defend. It's a very unique person who can cast off the world year after year and keep moving forward. Most of us become enamored with it and trapped by it. The young have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They are the ideal win-win candidates for game-training systems like this. They have no strong incentive for the system of education that produced them to remain relevant and everything to gain by obsoleting those that came after... they're all for it.

Lastly, your old Boomers may be glad to not be obsolete yet and eager to contribute no matter how. They could see a system like this as their golden opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. They don't have long for this world anyhow and are likely to take the risk for similar reasons to they youngsters.

In a nutshell your liberals are people who are young or who are old. In between people get bitten by a desire for conservatism because they have much to lose should things change. On either end they don't have much to lose. It's the way of the world, welcome to middle age: it sucks. Both the kids and the parents depend on you, demand from you, and don't cut you any slack. My theory fits if you think back to the arc of the hippies from brash idealists who cast aside society's norms to greedy capitalists in the 80's to reborn liberals in the new millenium.

Consider, when the Xers get to be old we'll have better health care than the Boomers thanks to the fruits of the medical science the Boomers will selfishly startup but won't pay off until after their demise. Xers will have better quality of life thanks to the futile efforts of the Boomers. And, the facilities built to handle the throngs of Boomers? Newly empty, still gleaming, ready to welcome us. The cosmic joke is actually on the Boomers and the Millenials. We Xers will get the benefits of all their efforts allowing us to form a voting block that will keep those benefits for the elderly.

That is, unless the Singularity arrives too early. Then the Boomers will be immortal.

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