I have long been critical of CNN for becoming a “news show” network rather than a news network, which is why it comes as a surprise, even to me, that at the end of this month, I will be taking a full-time position with CNN in New York.
As many of you know, for years my work has focused on developing software capable of extracting knowledge from data. The basic idea is that we are awash in data—numbers, statistics, transaction records, tweets, blog posts, e-mails, etc.—but we continue to suffer from our inability to fully leverage this information tsunami in a meaningful way.
Knowledge is information that enhances one’s capacity to act wisely. So, context is key. One person’s knowledge is another person’s noise. It all depends on what one is interested in. As a concrete example, consider the information that the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 “pinger” has only a few more days of battery life remaining. For most people, this information is noise. It does little to help them act more wisely. But for someone like CNN’s Anderson Cooper, this information is knowledge. Armed with this knowledge, Mr. Cooper can appear to act much more wisely by making statements like, “As the search for the flight recorder needle in the vast ocean haystack continues, the sense of urgency is increasing daily as the battery life to the onboard pinger is expected to end in just a few days, leaving searchers, family members, and indeed, the entire world, wondering what will happen when that all important signal goes dark.”
When the lead technical recruiter for CNN’s Information Technology Department contacted me via LinkedIn, I was at first thinking it was just another head-hunter looking to fill some mundane software engineering role. But she explained that she had been impressed by my background in ontology design, enterprise application integration (EAI), federated web service architectures, and my history as an entrepreneur in the software industry, and that for these reasons, she thought I would be perfect as the chief software architect for a new knowledge synthesis initiative within CNN.
The role will entail working closely not only with Anderson Cooper, but also John King to find ways to present even more knowledge on really big touch screen displays. Near term plans also include driving an initiative to make Wolf Blitzer appear knowledgeable by replacing his on-air glasses with Google Glass lenses. The goal is to use super computer technology to provide real time voice analysis to dissect Mr. Blitzer’s statements and present him with machine synthesized follow-up sentences that help create the impression that Mr. Blitzer is well versed on whichever subject he is filling time.
Of course, I didn’t make the decision to move to New York without consulting my family. But once they understood the nature of the opportunity, Carol and my kids all encouraged me to jump at this opportunity. I guess Mrs. Gump was right, life is like a box of chocolates. Or maybe a box of fruit, I don’t know, but on this first day of April, I’m getting a Big Apple.