A Great Simian or just a Monkey

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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..

watson unstructured data

Will Watson replace humans?

This is frequent topic. I’ll keep it short. No, Watson was not developed to replace humans. The opposite, one of the reasons was to empower humans, and actually the other way around as well, let humans empower the computers.

Today Watson will help us make better decision, this by learning, reason and communicate in natural language (text and speech). Watson will make us better, not replace us.

But what was is the problem that Watson was set out to solve when it all started?

This is what Dr John Kelly said about that time in history.

We set out to solve the simple problem of massive unstructured data.

We did not set out to replicate the human brain or map the brain or a form of artificial intelligence that replicates what humans do.

The project that today has become Watson started in August 2007 and was then called BlueJay. The IBM Researchers had realized that the amount of unstrucured data was increasing with an ever before seen volume and speed. The systems at that time (and most systems today) did simply not handle that amount and kind of data. Data was not only text, it was images and sound etc. None of this could be read by computers.

Today the analyzing of unstructured data is an underlaying core part of what Watson is. It is also probably the most desired and valuable selling point. Just imagine all the data in your office that just lays there and is never utilized by computers to empower us and our business. Today 80% of all data produced is unstrucutred, and Watson can handle it.

For some more on the background and purpose of Watson, I recommend this talk by Dr John Kelly, held at Cognitive Era Colloquium in November 2015.


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