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Facebook AI Research Team Shuts Down Negotiating Robots

Facebook has shut down two robots after they abruptly stopped using English and invented their own language while conducting a negotiation exercise.

There have been a flurry of reports over the past week about Facebook’s decision to shut down two chatbots – named Bob and Alice – after they developed a coded language that was incomprehensible to humans.

The initial experiment involved a simple conversation between one human and one chatbot where they negotiated the sharing out of some items – books, hats and balls. This conversation was conducted in English, along the lines of “give me one ball, and I’ll give you the hats”.

So far, so good. But when the human was removed from the conversation and two chatbots were directed at each other, the way they communicated immediately became difficult for humans to understand.

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Some media commentators have labelled the development “sinister”, with frequent references to Terminator, Skynet and – of course – Frankenstein appearing in related coverage. But Facebook researcher Dhruv Batra told Fastco that there was simply no guidance set for the robots to stick to the English language. “Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves.” Essentially, the bots found a more efficient way of communicating with each other.

Setting parameters

The topic of negotiation and AI came under discussion at a recent Negotiation Roundtable organised by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning). The attendees agreed that if a robot is going to run a negotiation, it requires very clear guidance around the parameters and objectives.

Another concern about AI being involved in commercial negotiation is that at present, they are unable to understand emotional intelligence. Thierry Blomet, Senior VP of Global Sourcing at Kemira, says that “Until we completely remove the emotional aspect, AI cannot run negotiations. Body language and emotional reactions are intangible, and are most unlikely to be modelled by programmers.” In the case of Facebook’s Alice and Bob, the human factor was removed.

Blomet points out that AI can play a valuable role in complex scenario modelling, which would be “much more complex than even the smartest procurement brain could manage. Whatever might happen in the negotiation would be included in that model, with the answers already pre-empted.”

Laurence Pérot, Head of Global Supply Chain Procurement at Logitech, agrees. “Big Data and AI will lead to much more efficient scenario modelling, particularly with supply chain, logistics and transportation bids.”

Orestes Peristeris, Supply Chain Expert at Yale, comments that ultimately, it’s about quantification and sophistication of statistics. “Do you have the data in the same place and in one system? What can be quantified and what cannot be quantified objectively? There are some things that can be used, some things we know will happen with some certainty, and some things that can’t be quantified. Finally, we’ll always need humans to take the outcomes of Big Data and apply it to the business context.”

As for the future of procurement negotiation, perhaps one day we’ll see buyers and suppliers lining up their chatbots against each other and letting them negotiate in rapid, complex code.

May the best bot win.

In other procurement news this week:

Hackett research reveals dramatic savings from digital transformation

  • New research from The Hackett Group has shown that the potential cost take-out opportunity through digital transformation is up to 24%, through the implementation of robotic process automation, advanced analytics, cloud-based applications and other approaches.
  • The research has also revealed that world-class procurement organisation now operate at 22% lower labour costs, have 29% fewer staff, and generate more than twice the ROI of typical organisations, with over $10 in savings for every $1 of procurement operating costs.
  • The Hackett Group’s Christopher Sawchuck commented that procurement technology has reached an inflection point: “World-class organisations can continue to reduce costs by embracing digital technology, and typical procurement organisations can leverage the same technology to catch up faster at less cost.”

Download the research here: http://www.thehackettgroup.com/research/2017/wcpapr17/SalesForce-World-Class-Advantage-17Q2-PR.html

Collaborative Robots to Boost Warehouse Productivity

  • In a shift away from the apparent race to replace humans with robotic workers, firms are designing robots to work alongside people in warehouses and boost productivity.
  • “Collaborative” robots can have a variety of uses, including leading human workers to the exact location of a product, or carrying goods from one part of the warehouse to another. DHL, Bonobos and Zara are known to be experimenting with the technology.
  • The robots – costing tens of thousands of dollars – are relatively cheap when compared with the vast amount of conveyor belts and automation systems included in a typical warehouse.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

Interested in attending a CABL Negotiation workshop? Visit http://www.cabl.ch/ to find out more. The founder, Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience with leading multinationals and over 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

The Value of Social Media Voices in Supply Chain

Social media: It’s vast, it’s unstructured, and it’s overwhelming. But the value for supply chain is there to be extracted!

According to Business Insider, social media sharing outpaces some of the most data intensive B2B activities: Facebook processes 500 times more data each day than the New York Stock Exchange and Twitter exceeds NYSE’s daily data storage by 12 times.

Social media gives voice to anyone looking for a platform: consumers and corporates, individuals and organisations. By enabling the democratisation of instant worldwide communications, services such as Twitter and Facebook have created an overwhelming volume of unstructured data in a short period of time.

While the development of social media voices is dynamic and continues to evolve without pause, businesses have yet to tap into its true power. What happens to these spontaneously created bits of data? Who is listening? Is there actionable value in the voices?

Social media voices are the sum total of all the unstructured data shared around the world.

Social media data may be unstructured, but the voices within it have a perceptible tone. By establishing a baseline and monitoring changes up or down, it is possible to detect shifts in tone and frequency and leverage them as a kind of early warning system. By tracking all of the mentions of compliance and sustainability over a period of time, unstructured data forms a workable trend. With this carefully built intelligence legacy in hand, changes are easier to identify and respond to in near real time.

The challenge of extracting value in social media

The challenge associated with trying to extract value from social media voices is enormous – but so is the associated opportunity. Traditional methods of monitoring company news and developments may work for a limited number of key strategic suppliers, but the scale associated with tracking the entire supply base is prohibitive, let alone looking beyond the first tier. In the absence of a new, technologically enabled approach, it would be impossible to proactively manage risk from a fully-informed position.

Monitoring social media voices makes it possible to remotely audit the majority of a company’s suppliers in a scalable and automated way, requiring limited human resources while still providing constant ’uptime’. For companies competing on a global stage, there is perhaps no greater use case for social media voices than managing the compliance and sustainability of their supply chain.

Compliance incidents among first tier suppliers (and elsewhere in the supply chain) can lead to significant reputational damage and a loss of revenue or company value. IntegrityNext’s Social Media Compliance Intelligence Engine provides the capabilities required to examine thousands of suppliers in real time. The IntegrityNext platform uncovers a wealth of publicly available data on suppliers to better inform the business by crawling approximately 500 million messages per day, revealing key insights by tracking relevant voices and the topics trending among your suppliers.

The power of social media voices is not just for increasing the visibility of decision makers, it enables leaders to draw actionable insights using real-time analytics to manage the compliance and sustainability of the entire supply chain.

The IntegrityNext platform covers all major aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability requirements, allowing companies to instantly monitor thousands of suppliers and their entire supply chain 24/7 with minimal administration. IntegrityNext brings together pre-built supplier compliance assessments, blacklist and sanction checks, and real-time social media insights in a user-experience driven platform that covers international standards and extends multiple tiers into the supply chain. For more information, click here.  

This article was originally published on LinkedIn

Help! A Potential Employer Asked For My Facebook Password

You’re in the middle of a job interview when the recruiter shocks you by asking for your Facebook password, citing “company policy”. Do you: A) Meekly hand it over; B) Kick over your chair and storm out; or C) Politely but firmly refuse?

Have you ever been asked to hand over your social media details in a job interview? Don’t panic – it’s probably just a stress test.

Stress tests are designed to put you under pressure and see how you handle it. They range from grilling you about your weaknesses, to subjecting you to a barrage of quick-fire questions to try to fluster or catch you off-guard.

Heineken took this to the extreme in their viral recruitment video where interviewees are subjected to a range of stressful situations, including a creepy hand-holding interviewer who later feigns a heart attack. While it’s fun to watch, there’s a lesson here – in an age where candidates often give text-book answers to text-book interview questions, recruiters are looking for ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“We need your Facebook login details”

Your three potential reactions:

A) Meekly handing over your password: Wrong answer. This shows that firstly, you’re desperate for this job and secondly, you’re a pushover. Is this how you would behave when representing the company in a tough negotiation?

B) Anger: You’ve fallen into the trap. Even though it’s an outrageous demand, getting angry only demonstrates that you won’t be able to remain calm in the face of on-the-job pressure.

C) Politely but firmly refuse: Correct! You were on the lookout for a stress test, and you’ve identified this one as such. This takes the pressure off, allowing you to present a calm and logical response.

Unfortunately, that’s easy to say and hard to do!

How to say “no” politely 

  1. Call them out

If you’ve read the situation correctly, then you could simply respond by saying, “This is one of those stress-tests, right?”, and then launch into a detailed explanation of how you’re able to stay calm under pressure, with examples.

If they still insist, and genuinely appear to be demanding your Facebook login (and you still want this job), then you’ll need an excuse beyond the bare fact that you don’t want them seeing your drunken photos from the big party last weekend.

  1. Privacy

“I have an obligation to protect my friends’ privacy. They have their own privacy policies set on their accounts to safeguard themselves and their loved ones and that’s their right. If I start sharing their information with potential employers then I’ll have broken my trust with them.”

  1. Work/life

“For me, work and home are two separate things. I’m careful to keep work-related posts off my Facebook page, so it’s in no way relevant to any potential employers.”

  1. Direct to LinkedIn

“I think you mean LinkedIn? While I wouldn’t hand over my login details, I’d be happy to connect with you on LinkedIn so you can see how I present myself professionally on social media.”

  1. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine

This one’s a bit more provocative! “Absolutely fine – I think this is a great idea. I’d also like to see the type of team I’m joining, so if you can share your log-in details, along with your director’s and all the team members’ Facebook passwords, then I’d be happy to share mine.”

  1. Throw the question back at them

Whatever you decide to say, it’s vital you do so in a professional, calm and reasonable way. In a stress test, how you say it is more important than what you say. The interviewer will be judging your response, attitude and manner, but you can turn the tables by asking them to put themselves in your shoes.

For example:

  • “I’m sure you would agree …”
  • “I’m sure that if you were in my position…”
  • “From a privacy perspective, my friends wouldn’t be comfortable with me showing their information to people. I’m sure your friends and family would agree.”

Asking someone to put themselves in your position makes it almost impossible to be offended by a calm and rational argument.

In the end, keep in mind that there is no right answer to a stress-test question. It’s designed to judge how you react, so be confident in whichever answer you choose.

How far would you go for charity?

Since we published this story, the #IceBucketChallenge has spread to front pages the world over. To view an ever-updating list of participants visit this exhaustive Wikipedia page.

What’s the idea behind it? To raise awareness (and money) for the ALS Association, who research the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. However in Britain this money instead goes to Macmillan Cancer Support.

From 29 July 2014 the challenge has generated a whopping $22.9 million in contributions.

Updated with Bill Gates Ice Bucket Challenge:

Question: Have you ever seen Mark Zuckerberg pour a bucket of ice-cold water on himself?

Answer: Yep, now you have.

Microsoft’s CEO – Satya Nadella, previously stepped-up to the ice-cold mantle. By completing the Ice Bucket Challenge, Zuck’s got to nominate three people of his choosing, namely: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Netflix CEO Read Hastings, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Not high-profile choices at all then…

Those nominated have just 24 hour to give themselves a dousing, or donate to the ALS Foundation. Of course they can always choose to do both.

Are you inspired by Zuckerberg’s show of charity, and would you do the same?