Processing Big Data with Cognitive Systems that THINK

hal9000For years Hollywood has been enamored with the idea of artificial intelligence. Beyond tabulating, beyond programmed responses, what would happen if a computer could learn, reason, analyze, predict? In short, what could computers do if they could think? Sadly, more often than not, Hollywood’s answer resulted in some kind of disaster. skynet-terminatorIn 2001 a Space Odyssey, the HAL 9000 computer decided to kill the astronauts on Discovery One. In the 1983 film WarGames, the WOPR computer played games with global thermonuclear war, and in the Terminator franchise of movies, SkyNet attempted to exterminate the human race.  Ugh!!

I’m proud that I work for a company who has a very different perspective on the potential of cognitive computing. Instead of blowing people up, IBMers around the world are developing cognitive systems to help us make better decisions.

Leading the Way to a New Computing Era
Number one on my list of Top 5 Observations from IBM Edge 2013 had to do with the cultural changes driving Big Data. The thing about big data is that, in large part, we don’t yet know what we don’t know. To make sense of the deluge of complex information, we need more than just programmed responses. We need a new type of computing system to help process and analyze.

IBM supercomputer WatsonThe IBM Watson system and its victory on Jeopardy marked a significant step forward on the path to the cognitive era of computing. We showed that cognitive systems could use advanced learning and reasoning algorithms to sense, predict and derive insights from Big Data. Equally as important, we showed that cognitive systems could interact naturally in partnership with people.

IBM’s Viewpoint
Now it’s time to put cognitive systems to work on more than just game show problems. The possibilities are as endless as the questions that get asked and answered every day. To tackle some of the more interesting possibilities, scientists and engineers at IBM are forming collaborative partnerships with organizations in many industries.Cognitive systems

  • In healthcare estimates are that by 2020 doctors will face 200x the amount of medical data and facts that a human could possibly process. By 2020, I’ll be reaching an age where I’ll want my doctor to have insight from all that data when treating me 🙂  IBMs partnership with Cleveland Clinic is working on this exact problem.
  • In finance, organizations want to better interact with their customers by analyzing in real-time market conditions, the client’s past decisions, recent life events, and available offerings. IBMs partnership with Citigroup is exploring these possibilities.
  • In call centers, Fortune notes that cognitive systems “will now be employed in customer service centers, used as a tool for both representatives and consumers to get fast, data-driven responses.” The new IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, a first of a kind cognitive system, will enhance customer service by delivering informed, data-driven answers or by sitting directly in the hands of consumers, in a mobile device.

It’s quite a different outcome than depicted by Hollywood, and it’s kind of exciting.  Join the conversation. What kinds of questions do you think would be cool for cognitive systems to help with?


About Ron Riffe

IBM Manager, Software Defined Portfolio. Adoring husband, proud daddy, imperfect but redeemed. I have a thirty year background in the storage industry having held positions as both a consumer and a peddler and in roles spanning from administrator, to thought leader, to strategic planner, to senior manager. I’m also a passionate leader, speaker and author. My perspectives are my own.
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5 Responses to Processing Big Data with Cognitive Systems that THINK

  1. fselmo77 says:

    1) Can there be world peace?
    2) How to prevent hunger & poverty?
    3) Cure for deadly disease.
    4) Pay off national debt.
    5) Predict natural/unatutral disasters.
    6) Get rid of waste.
    7) Interstellar space travel.

    • Ron Riffe says:

      Good list 🙂 I spend most of my time thinking about IT storage related questions. Getting rid ow waste and almost real-time reaction to disasters are certainly two interesting areas. Thx for the response! –Ron

      • fselmo77 says:

        Your welcome, I would also add that much work should be done to accommodate the elderly and those who are not so technically inclined….many older folks I encounter simply refuse to embrace new technology because they are intimidated and fearful of it….I fear it will leave those individuals isolated and even more fearful living almost in a seemingly foreign society. I strongly believe technology should improve everyone lives, not make people feel left out and behind…..Imo

  2. BOOMER says:

    Since “2001”: If “Hal” hasn’t yet advanced enough, enough to want to learn value and meaning of “compassion”, we don’t want it.

  3. BOOMER says:

    Cautions not speed should be criteria to assess output of “Hal’s” Ability to apply positive Feeling over its “bits & bytes” …. so thinking should be equal to achieving Feeling, so a SAFE “Hal” may be a ways off yet.

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