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From the cult of personality department

Image Ever since Watson became the Jeopardy Champ, I have been following his (its) developments. IBM and others seem to think deep learning AI's are the future. Recently, I happened upon this web page for IBM Watson Personality Insights where I can "Gain insight into how and why people think, act, and feel the way they do. This service applies linguistic analytics and personality theory to infer attributes from a person's unstructured text. The web page invites you to submit writing samples that are analyzed by Watson using some kind of linguistic API. Such a page is ripe for testing. As the page further describes:

"The IBM Watson™ Personality Insights service provides an Application Programming Interface (API) that enables applications to derive insights from social media, enterprise data, or other digital communications. The service uses linguistic analytics to infer personality and social characteristics, including Big Five, Needs, and Values, from text. These insights help businesses to understand their clients' preferences and improve customer satisfaction by anticipating customer needs and recommending future actions. Businesses can use these insights to improve client acquisition, retention, and engagement, and to strengthen relations with their clients."

The page also suggests at least 3500 words (ideally 6000) to do a statistical significant analysis. I can only guess the few short words from customers when you ask, "Please fill out this form describing anything in 6000 words or less, but definitely more than 3500. Thank you, we appreciate your business. We will be glad to assist you once you have completed the form." I'm a bit old fashion and I would think that maybe it might be best to ask what a "customer needs" rather than trying to anticipate their needs by using Watson.

In any case, such a service still intrigues me and since I write quite a bit I thought it might be interesting to see what Watson thinks about me. My first submission is a technical article entitled "Why Linux On Clusters." The article is a straightforward piece on why Linux has succeeded so well on HPC clusters. There is, of course, and "open software" slant to it, but I don't think Watson is looking at specific topics. The length was 2725 words (not the full article, but enough to match the second non-technical entry below). The amount of words provided a "Decent Analysis" and this is what Watson had to say about my personality:

You are shrewd, skeptical and tranquil.
You are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them. You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. And you are imaginative: you have a wild imagination.
Experiences that give a sense of efficiency hold some appeal to you.
You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person. You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done."

According to Watson, I should be skeptical about the results. I think however, Watson is not too far off the mark, but so was my horoscope last time someone insisted I read it (I think horoscopes are nonsense, but I'm pretty tranquil about those who want to read them.) Next Watson seems to think I'm independent and imaginative. I would agree with this conclusion. I'm not sure what the efficient experiences sentence means so I'll skip that one. The final paragraph does not seem to fit. I tend to seek opportunities that interest me, not to improve myself, which does tie into the following my own path.

Overall, the analysis seems to capture some of my personality. I should state that if Watson told me I was an "outgoing people-person and probably looked like Bad Pitt," I might want to agree with that assessment as well. So, there is certainly what I call "self bias" to this whole experiment. (Similar to psychic readings, where people only hear what they want to hear -- there is that skeptic again.)

The scientist in me wants to probe further. I enjoy writing non-technical works when I have the time. In order to probe Watson from another direction, I selected a piece called Mikes Cooler (pdf). I wrote this after a tragic event occurred during a college reunion weekend. The article had 2474 words and was similar in size to the "Why Linux on Clusters" article. Again, it was classified as a "Decent Analysis" and produced the following results:

"You are unaggressive.
You are uncompromising: you think it is wrong to take advantage of others to get ahead. You are calm-seeking: you prefer activities that are quiet, calm, and safe. And you are modest: you are uncomfortable being the center of attention.
Your choices are driven by a desire for well-being.

You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you. You are relatively unconcerned with achieving success: you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents."

Again, the analysis seemed to identify some personality traits with which I can relate. I am generally non-aggressive although I do have a practiced left hook. I definitely do not like being the center of attention and I know I'm a full-fledged introvert. I tested as an INTP in the famous Myers-Briggs personality test. (Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving - Introverted Thinking with Extraverted Intuition). Although, in order to write this article (and those like Mike's Cooler) I am required to talk about myself, which runs against my introvert tendencies.

I do help those around me, who wouldn't? I am, however, concerned with success, but on my terms. How I define success is probably different than others. A good working cluster, or piece of code, or a well-written book -- things that keep us moving forward. Finally, at my age, I tend to make decisions that use my best talents and as Watson says not to show them off. There was a time when I wanted to be the next man from UNCLE, but I now realize I don't have the aptitude or talent for such things. Although, if I were a talented man from UNCLE, I could not tell you, so Watson would still be correct.

I thought about combining the two pieces or submitting some of my more snarky writing, but I figured I would give Watson the rest of the day off because I take care of people and nascent AI's around me. However, I'm thinking about trying to write something so that Watson concludes "You are a psychopath, get help."

My conclusion about Watson and his insights into my personality is mixed. While I think my writing style revealed some things about my personality, it is similar to what you might get by having a conversation and building a relationship with me. (Yes, we introverts can do that relationship thing.) Although the personality of some people can be easily defined with one or two words (jerk, blow hard, etc.), I think a true personality is a somewhat fluid thing and arises within the alchemy of relationships. Watson seems to catch some slivers, but not the whole pie.