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?