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Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: Why OpenAI’s latest text-generator is better but still needs work, Google Cloud chases the blockchain and the latest moves in enterprise tech.


Spin up

In the fast-paced enterprise tech world, IT might need a reboot. That’s why 43% of CIOs told PwC they want a more agile operating model. Although IT is no longer seen as a cost center, 30% of CIOs are still fighting for IT to be viewed as a strategic business partner.

You can’t hide your lyin’ AI

OpenAI knows its text generators have had their fair share of problems. Now the research company has shifted to a new deep-learning model it says works better to produce “fewer toxic outputs” than GPT-3, its flawed but widely used system.

Starting Thursday, a new model called InstructGPT will be the default technology served up through OpenAI’s API, which delivers foundational AI into all sorts of chatbots, automatic writing tools and other text-based applications.

  • “We want to build AI systems that act in accordance with human intent, or in other words, that do what humans want,” said Jan Leike, who leads the alignment team at OpenAI.
  • Leike said he has been working for the past eight years to improve what the company refers to as “alignment” between its AI and human goals for automated text.
  • Asking an earlier iteration of GPT to explain the moon landing to a 5-year-old may have resulted in a description of the theory of gravity, said Leike.
  • Instead, the company believes InstructGPT, the first “aligned model” it says it has deployed, will deliver a response that is more in touch with the human desire for a simple explanation.

OpenAI’s success with text automation models may be dependent on whether they actually do what people and businesses want them to.

  • “[B]ecause GPT-3 is already being deployed in the OpenAI API, its misalignment matters to OpenAI’s bottom line — it would be much better if we had an API that was trying to help the user instead of trying to predict the next word of text from the internet,” wrote the former head of OpenAI’s language model alignment team, Paul Christiano, in 2020.
  • InstructGPT cost less to build than GPT-3 because it used far fewer parameters, which are essentially elements chosen by the neural network to help it learn and improve.

GPT has been employed by a variety of companies, particularly to develop chatbots. But it’s not the right type of language processing AI for all purposes, said Nitzan Mekel-Bobrov, eBay’s chief artificial intelligence officer.

  • While eBay has used GPT, the ecommerce company has relied more heavily on another open-source language model, BERT, said Mekel-Bobrov.
  • “We feel that the technology is just more advanced,” said Mekel-Bobrov regarding BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.
  • EBay typically uses AI-based language models to help understand or predict customer intent rather than to generate automated responses for customer service, something he said BERT is better suited for than early versions of GPT.

GPT-3 and other natural-language processing AI models have been criticized for producing text that perpetuates stereotypes and spews “toxic” language, in part because they were trained using data gleaned from an internet that’s permeated by that very sort of nasty word-smithing.

  • In fact, research published in June revealed that when prompted with the phrase, “Two Muslims walk into a …,” GPT-3 generated text referencing violent acts two-thirds of the time in 100 tries.
  • OpenAI said in its research paper that “InstructGPT shows small improvements in toxicity over GPT-3,” according to some metrics, but not in others.
  • GPT-3 has also been shown to conjure up false information. While OpenAI said InstructGPT lies less often than GPT-3 does, there is more work to be done on that front, too.
  • The company’s researchers gauged the new model’s “hallucination rate,” noting, “InstructGPT models make up information half as often as GPT-3 (a 21% vs. 41% hallucination rate, respectively).”

Leike said OpenAI is aware that even InstructGPT “can still be misused” because the technology is “neither fully aligned or fully safe.” However, he said, “It is way better at following human intent.”

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)

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Uh, yeah, we do blockchain

Despite the fact that no one still has any real idea how blockchain technologies will impact enterprise tech over the next decade, it’s becoming clear that big enterprise tech vendors increasingly feel they have to have some sort of blockchain strategy to stay relevant.

Google Cloud plans to build a dedicated blockchain group to, in part, “reduce the frictions some customers have with respect to paying for centralized cloud utilizing cryptocurrencies,” Google’s Richard Widmann told CNBC. That group will work on some sort of blockchain activity for Google customers in several key markets, such as retail and healthcare.

Such is the state of the enterprise blockchain in early 2022: We’re still waiting for a killer enterprise application to surface that takes advantage of the principles of the Web3 movement, but there’s serious FOMO among the companies that remember what happened to those who dawdled while other technology shifts unfolded in the past. If life really does change gradually, then suddenly, can’t hurt to be prepared.


— Tom Krazit (email | twitter)

Upcoming at Protocol

The cloud let chief information officers become more strategic and focused on building business value instead of managing IT as a cost center. Then the pandemic thrust CIOs into an even more central role: They became crucial leaders when managing remote work, navigating abrupt changes in business operations and accelerating digital transformation.

So what’s next for CIOs? Join Protocol’s Tom Krazit for a virtual event on Feb. 8 at 10am PT in discussion with four amazing IT leaders: Rob Carter, CIO, FedEx; Chris Bedi, CIO, ServiceNow; Sheila Jordan, Chief Digital Technology Officer, Honeywell; and Vittorio Cretella, CIO, Procter & Gamble. RSVP here.

Enterprise moves

From a slew of promotions at ServiceNow to shake-ups at Google Cloud and departures at Adobe and Facebook, it’s been a busy week for the enterprise industry. Here’s what’s happening with the people of enterprise tech at Intel, Splunk, Domo and more.

CJ Desai was promoted to COO at ServiceNow from chief product and engineering officer.

Kevin Haverty is now special adviser to ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott, where he will focus on the public sector.

Paul Smith was promoted to chief commercial officer at ServiceNow, leaving his post as president of EMEA to oversee regional sales.

Carolee Gearhart is leaving Google Cloud. Gearhart was formerly VP of Worldwide Channel Sales, and leaves for an undisclosed role in the startup world.

Kevin Ichhpurani is the new replacement for channel chief at Google Cloud. Ichhpurani replaces Carolee Gearhart, and will lead a combined ecosystem and channel sales team.

Arash Nikkar joined Lacework as head of engineering. Nikkar left Facebook as VP of Engineering last fall, but publicly announced his new position this month.

Paul Robson joined Benchling as president of Field Operations, after leading Adobe’s global business as president of International.

Deirdré Straughan is Intel's new director of Open Source Community and Evangelism. Straughan joins Intel from AWS where she held open source and marketing roles.

Rolddy Leyva was hired as chief diversity officer at Splunk. Leyva joins Splunk after stints leading diversity efforts at Capital One and Sodexo.

Mohammed Aaser is Domo’s new chief data officer. Aaser joins from his role as chief data officer for McKinsey and Company.

Nikki Walker was named director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Domo, after previously leading community engagement for the company.

Gee Rittenhouse has been named CEO of McAfee Enterprise. Rittenhouse formerly led Cisco’s Security Business Group and was president of Bell Labs.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

SAP released its fourth-quarter results, showing a 17% increase in cloud revenue to $10.63 billion. It also acquired fintech Taulia to help enterprises manage their cash flows.

Atlassian reported earnings that beat Wall Street expectations and acquired Percept.AI to add virtual agent technology to Jira.

AWS and Confluent signed a partnership deal to co-sell Confluent’s streaming data services, a sign that Confluent’s attitude toward Big Cloud might be improving.

Credo Technology stock climbed 17% after its initial $200 million IPO on Wednesday, a rare IPO among semiconductor startups.

OpenSea NFTs are being used to steal IP addresses via XSS attacks, which could help explain the security shake-up at Twitter after it announced plans to host NFTs as avatars.

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Everyone wants to IPO—but how do you really get it done, in a way that moves markets and inspires investors? You need the type of confidence and growth that starts from within. WalkMe’s CFO, Andrew Casey, shares how he rethought quotas, metrics, and what drives his teams, so WalkMe could go public—and go big.

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