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Human Rights Implications of IBM Watson’s ‘Personality Insights’ Tool (medium.com)
50 points by benbreen 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

"Also, note that these results — both original and modified text from my blogs — are very different from the results based on my Twitter feed (which are shown at the beginning of this post)."

Congratulations! These are the results telling you your system is a failure.

I don't think the Watson Personality Insights tool is his system..

This reads like marketing material shoehorned into a soft-peddled criticism about human rights in order to generate buzz. What stretched my suspension of disbelief more than anything is that the author seems to think that people use this product in production, which AFAICT, no one really does.

That was not my intention; I added a disclaimer showing that I’m not affiliated. I raised some real human rights concerns; IBM or any third party companies using the tool should take them seriously. The issue is that companies do use these tools, mostly in HR departments; recruiters can attest. Another interesting paper on hiring and algorithmic decision making that you might be interested: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3408010

Good writing! Have you seen this video of Michal Kosinski about the end of privacy? He talks about making inferences about intimate psycho-demographic information from photos.


My company has a feature that uses it in production but I think it's still too soon to tell whether or not it's of any value to customers. We're only using the raw score for the big 5 traits, though. We don't look at any of the "consumer sentiment on Mondays" stuff. It's been a while since I've looked at the docs but IBM seems to be adding new features to Watson all the time. For the most part I think Watson is great but there are definitely some features that deserve a healthy amount of skepticism.

"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

Ah Personality Insights. In playing with it when it came out I noticed that when it printed out something that someone agreed with they thought it rocked, and when someone felt it characterized them incorrectly it was junk. This and "Sentiment Analysis" get too much hype and not enough close inspection.

One of the more interesting discussions around this was that actual personality tests have pretty carefully crafted questions that they then look at the response to in a measurable way. But you can't really crawl a forum and reliably match up "stimulus" and "response" so the results have so much noise in them as to be unreliable.

I tried plugging the Keeper's Diary from Resident Evil:

  At night, we played poker with Scott the guard, Alias and Steve the researcher.

  Steve was very lucky, but I think he was cheating. What a scumbag.

  Today, a high ranking researcher asked me to take care of a new monster. It looks like a gorilla without any skin. They told me to feed them live food. When I threw in a pig, they were playing with it... tearing off the pig's legs and pulling out the guts before they actually ate it.

  Around 5 o'clock this morning, Scott came in and woke me up suddenly. He was wearing a protective suit that looks like a space suit. He told me to put one on as well. I heard there was an accident in the basement lab. It's no wonder, those researchers never rest, even at night.

  I've been wearing this annoying space suit since yesterday, my skin grows musty and feels very itchy. By way of revenge, I didn't feed those dogs today. Now I feel better.

  I went to the medical room because my back is all swollen and feels itchy. They put a big bandage on my back and the doctor told me I did not need to wear the space suit any more. I guess I can sleep well tonight.

  When I woke up this morning, I found another blister on my foot. It was annoying and I ended up dragging my foot as I went to the dog's pen. They have been quiet since morning, which is very unusual. I found that some of them had escaped. I'll be in real trouble if the higher-ups find out.

  Even though I didn't feel well, I decided to go see Nancy. It's my first day off in a long time but I was stopped by the guard on the way out. They say the company has ordered that no one leave the grounds. I can't even make a phone call. What kind of joke is this?!

  I heard a researcher who tried to escape from this mansion was shot last night. My entire body feels burning and itchy at night. When I was scratching the swelling on my arms, a lump of rotten flesh dropped off. What the hell is happening to me?

  Fever gone but itchy. Hungry and eat doggy food. Itchy itchy Scott came. Ugly face so killed him. Tasty.


Watson told me:

"You are skeptical, somewhat inconsiderate and can be perceived as compulsive."

"You are reserved: you are a private person and don't let many people in. You are hedonistic: you feel your desires strongly and are easily tempted by them. And you are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself."

"You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of organization."

"You are relatively unconcerned with both achieving success and independence. You make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents. And you welcome when others direct your activities for you."

Interesting, to say the least...

keepersdiary: this is great :) It gives me a way to build a dataset (the sayings of great characters in literature) that can be used to persuade the lunatic fringe of my HR department to not contemplate this nonsense!

Good thing watson doesn't work very well, or else this would be a big problem

The risk here is your congressman / boss / etc who doesn't even write their own emails becomes convinced that it's meaningful

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