A Great Simian or just a Monkey

cognitive process

cognitive pre-requisits

Tell me what I do not know!

Artificial Intelligence will be a huge part of our daily lives and in our businesses from now on, but what we see today is not always Artificial Intelligence or my preferred term, Augmented Intelligence. It is just re-packed machine learning with a conversational interface. AI and cognitive are not only algorithms it is so much more. Many high-end AI / Cognitive products today are not mainly algorithm, that goes for Google DeedMind as well as IBM Watson.

Without further rambling, I thought I would state my position on the topic. It is actually pretty simple. A product, service or process that will be an AI-enabled or cognitive shall have one single pre-requisite in my opinion.

An AI, cognitive product or process should tell us things we do not already know. If not, it is not AI or Cognitive!

If it does not meet that “general” term, it is not AI or Cognitive, period! AI and cognitive per se is to think, learn and reason etc, but to provide value in a business and to assist us, we need to guide our software in a way that they provide information, solutions and data that we could not generate ourselves with resources at hand.

The future of software in the enterprise is about elevating both us as humans, and our business. Efficiency and speed is fantastic, but that is nothing new, it is what we have today!

I think that in 5 years most processes and things we do in a company will be elevated by cognitive elements. AI and Cognitive will be everywhere.

Photo: From a morning walk last week in my new hometown.

ai chatbots and cognitive platforms

Cognitive Platforms are the future, not Bots and AI

Wherever you turn, whatever magazine you read, you see Bots, more Bots. Most of them sprinkled with Artificial Intelligence. In my view, this is a flawed and wrong assumption. The future is a platform that makes processes cognitive. A cognitive platform that will enable processes to think, learn, reason, solve problems and communicate in the expected domain and in the expected language. Bots and Artificial Intelligence are part of this platform.

The future is cognitive platforms!

Just a bot is just plain stupid, it does what you tell it to do, it is very much like traditional programming, the program does what it is programmed to do, nothing more, nothing less. It is a fun interface and an innovative communicative interaction. To escape the risk of endless loops and repeating the same stupid standard answer over and over again, we sprinkle some artificial intelligence on the poor Bot. Now we have a Bot that understands what you are saying to it and also can reply with a bit more elaborative answer then the basic standardized sentences. Does that mean that the Bot will actually assist us in our daily life and improve our performance as humans?

The above is true to a certain degree, in some cases, it will improve our lives, but mainly in the way of speed to information, the Bot will not tell us things we could not find out in other ways, it will just find it fast and deliver it to us. Such Bots are already here and have been for decades. Bots are simply put another type of interface.

The sprinkled AI is mainly about language and algorithms, a subset of the real meaning of AI. Languages in the sense that the Bot will understand you, classify what you intend to communicate and also often do this in several languages. A flaw today is that we often confuse machine learning and algorithms with the true meaning AI. It cannot be AI when most of the time it is a formula created in a spreadsheet that we then put to work on extensive amounts of data to help us to provide insight and conclusions to the user or the company. That is just machine learning. This is often done in very impressive ways (Spotifys Discover Weekly is a good example here), I have personally built companies mainly based on machine learning, so I am not in any way negative to the practice. It is just that it often (not in the Spotify case, just to be clear, they use machine learning) is described as AI and that it is the overall future of tech and in that I disagree. Why? Well, let’s start by looking at what AI is according to Wikipedia

Colloquially, the term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”.

So, according to Wikipedia all is fine, cognitive and AI is the same, but that is not the way it is translated into today’s tech-world. Most describe AI as a combination of Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Algorithms. With this in mind, I prefer the “cognitive” term instead of AI. The AI term is in many ways already destroyed by those who claim to do AI, but mainly does Machine Learning and NLP based on structured data.

Lets not forget that 80% of todays information today is unstructured, not even possible to interpret for most systems today.

Today 80% of the information we have at hand is unstructured, that means that very few computers can work with that data in a valuable way. To be able to understand millions of medical journals or law books from all over the world the computer need to be able to learn, reason etc as well as to learn the domain specific language. You cannot apply an algorithm from a spreadsheet to accomplish this, a software that is very close to a human brain is needed. A cognitive platform learns, communicates and does problem-solving.

The Cognitive Doctor vs the Human Doctor (example)

Over the years we have done tremendous research on cancer. We also have a huge amount of medical journals on cancer patients. Let’s play the role of the doctor. You think you have read a lot about cancer, and this specific version of cancer. You have also been in practice for 20+ years so you have seen your fair share of cancer patients passing by as well as written a lot of research papers on the topic, which would classify you as a very knowledgeable and experienced doctor within the field.

A patient walks in with the diagnoses of cancer, the specific cancer type that you are experienced in. You look at the journal and talk to the patient. Given the research reports you have done over the years, as well as the one you have read from others in combination with your experience in the field you come to the conclusion that a specific type of treatment would be the best way to progress. Hopefully, the patient gets well and all is good.

Now, if the doctors working process would be cognitive the cognitive parts of the process would read ALL available research, ALL available medical journals. This in combination with getting all the data and info about the person incl. historical sickness and traumas etc that the patient might have. Again, let’s not forget that most of this data is actually unstructured and not even readable to most computers today. The cognitive process looks at all data (structured and unstructured) and swiftly replies to the Human Doctor with three alternatives (including the info these recommendations are based upon) for treatments for the patient, including a ranking on which alternative might be most suitable for this patient.

Now, the truth is that no doctor in the world can keep all information inside his / her head, the truth is that most of us tend to do what we have seen previous success with. What a cognitive enabled process now have given us is three alternatives for the Human Doctor to consider. It is still the Human Doctors decision, but the help presented might give new angles and new info that the Human Doctor actually had not considered. The decision is still the doctors, the decision is now only based on a more trustworthy base of data and information. Still presented to the patient by its doctor without even knowing that a computer actually helped a lot in providing the best treatment for you.

Is this pure fiction? Actually not! 

What is the future then? It is cognitive platforms!

For me, the success in this space lies in how well a company makes its processes cognitive. Cognitive will never be a specific product (like a Smart Bot) it will be integrated into existing (or new) business processes. Damn, that sounds boring, but let’s be honest here, most companies have defined ways of working aka processes. Most of these processes can be vastly improved by making them cognitive. To be clear, it is not new processes it is about making existing processes cognitive and by that more efficient, more valuable and more productive.

To be able to do this a process needs to be able to access different cognitive functions and consume them where appropriate. I could be to read, learn and understand a law book (and solve legal obstacles) or thousands of medical journals (like the cancer doctor example above) or it could be to find certain objects in millions of images or to analyze incoming communication, voice or e-mail, to be able to give a better customer experience, it could also be to give a quick, accurate  and personal (tone, personality) reply (in the right language) to a customer that interacts with the company.

This is only provided by a cognitive platform and not by a bot or AI (as positioned today by tech companies), but both are important parts of the cognitive platform.

PS I think I will break down this rant rambling post in a few more specific posts on the topics of cognitive platform, cognitive process etc Stay tuned DS

Photo from the movie Big Hero 6 by Disney

ibm cognitive

Cognitive, what is cognitive?

Cognitive, what does it mean? The word usually used this is cognition and according to wikipedia Cognition means the following:

Cognition is the set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge, attention, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language, etc. Human cognition is conscious and unconscious, concrete or abstract, as well as intuitive (like knowledge of a language) and conceptual (like a model of a language). Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

In conclusion, we are finally entering the era of thinking and awareness (which is the original latin meaning of the word), even for computers.

Cognitive Process

A cognitive process can be divided into 4 steps

  1. Observe (learn)
  2. Interpret (hypothesis)
  3. Evaluate (reason)
  4. Decide (action, present confidence and probability etc)

Research to dive deeper into cognitive

Cognitive is not only a marketing term for selling Watson, it is actually something researchers have worked on for a very long time, this since quite a few IBM researchers work on how the brain works. In the context of this post it naturally gets really intersting when computers and software starts to adopt cognitive functionality. .

According to Arvin Krishna, Senior Vice President of IBM Research, a cognitive technology needs to:

  1. Learn at scale
  2. Reason with purpose
  3. Interact with humans naturally
  4. Has an objective (this bullet was actually not said by Arvin but by Dr John Kelly in a talk at Cognitive Collaquium NY recently)

This is crisp and easy to understand (even though understanding how the hell they got the software to work like that is another thing).

IBM have always been very generous about posting their research online. It can be tricky to find, but it is out there. In terms of cognitive it has its own section on the IBM Research site. So either start on the IBM Research Cognitive Computing section or at the IBM Research homepage. There is droves of info to read up on and hours of video to watch.

Cognitive lingo

Cognitive analytics
A set of technologies and processes that analyze data for the purposes of learning, contextualization, and making recommendations.

Cognitive business
An IBM strategy that builds on digital business and digital intelligence with systems that can understand, reason, and learn to leverage data to create deeper engagement and personalization, enhanced expertise, and cognitive products, services, operations, and processes.

Cognitive computing
A category of technologies that uses natural language processing and machine learning to enable people and machines to interact more naturally to extend and magnify human expertise and cognition.

Cognitive environment
An infrastructure that uses specialized software agents and devices that act as one shared integrated resource, enabling fast and efficient human-computer collaboration.

Cognitive system
A category of technologies that uses natural language processing and machine learning to enable people and machines to interact more naturally to extend and magnify human expertise and cognition. Watson is an example of a cognitive system.

This is also the second time I borrow a top picture from IBM, this one from their campaign-site “Outthink” that is out there to enlighten us about Cognitive. It is a typical campaign including a darn cool commercial with Bob Dylan talking to Watson..

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