Christopher tm Herdt (cherdt) wrote,
Christopher tm Herdt

Watson, tell me a little about myself

Every year my department at work has a luncheon at which each of us presents an emerging technology, something a little out there, not necessarily ready for prime time. I selected IBM's Bluemix services, which basically comprise a Watson API--a way to ask Watson questions.

You remember Watson, right? He's the computer that beat Ken Jennings at Jeopardy!. I have not yet found the Bluemix API that allows you to phrase your answer in the form of a question.

One of the curious services they offer is Personality Insights. You supply a corpus of text written by an individual, and Watson analyzes it and tells you about the author's personality. You can try it yourself at their Personality Insights Demo.

LiveJournals--and personal blogs in general--are a great source of text by a single author! So naturally I had to analyze myself and some of my friends.

You need to supply it with a fair amount of text for the analysis. Supply it with a single post and the results may be skewed: some days I am apparently driven by curiosity (100%) and have no interest in artistic expression (0%). But supply it with your past 20 posts and you may have something.

Watson reports on the Big Five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. They re-labeled Neuroticism Emotional Range because, let's face it, Neuroticism sounds bad. An interesting choice, though, as all of these seemingly positive traits become negative if you score low. They also break down each of the Big Five into sub-traits, and report on several other areas as well.

I took my previous 20 public posts (6879 words) and ran them though. All results are scored relative to other people, which I take to mean that if I score high in one area it means that Watson thinks that I am strong in that personality trait relative to the average survey response in Watson's database. Also, this is a computer basing a personality evaluation on a subset of a subset of a subset of my writing.

Some traits for which I scored high were expected:
  • Authority challenging - yes, it's true that I don't believe people in positions of power are more likely to be right. They do more often think they're right....
  • Self-efficacy - yes, I can and often do set out to do things and then actually do them. Even if they are difficult. Even if they aren't the best ideas.
  • Uncompromising - you mean stubborn? I can't take credit. That runs in my family.
  • Sympathy - sometimes to my detriment, but yes, I am concerned about the well-being of the people with which I share this planet.

Others were unexpectedly low--I cannot speak to their accuracy:
  • Artistic expression - I guess I express myself in other, more prosaic ways?
  • Self-discipline - I don't buy this for a minute. Unless you mean that I have other more important things to do right now....
  • Gregariousness - according to Watson, I am full of cold, icy stares.
  • Melancholy - not that I think I'm particularly glum, I just didn't think I'd rank lower than average.

The thing that was a real surprise for me was a low score on self-consciousness. Apparently, I don't give a damn what anyone thinks of me! Good for me.

Whether or not the results are accurate or meaningful, it is interesting to view the results and recognize that an artificial intelligence has deduced these things about you from publicly-available data. This is interesting and frightening. What if a potential employer decides that someone so uncompromising and authority-challenging isn't right for their organization? What if a health insurance provider decides that high scores in the Neuroticism category represent a financial risk and charge you more accordingly? It's basically Gattaca, except that they don't even need a DNA sample: they just sample your online footprint.
Tags: artificial intelligence, gattaca, ibm, personality, psychology, watson

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.