Cognitive Computing: A Once in a Generation Race


I was a slow runner as a boy (jokes to a minimum please).  I hated playing those backyard games where I had to chase people around.  I was soooooo slow.  I found myself looking for ways to outthink the other kids I was chasing.  Eventually, I became proficient at cutting around bushes, hopping fences and avoiding backyard obstacles (like garden hoses and trash cans) so that I could easily catch other kids.

That’s where we are with cognitive computing.  This is a once in a generation innovation opportunity .. with an intra/entrepreneurship chaser.  Are you currently the chaser or the chasee?  If you are a slow runner like me, now is the time to start outthinking your competition.

It’s simple.  We are entering a new era of computing called cognitive computing. It signifies a fundamental shift in how machines interact with us, other machines and the environment. It will provide much value, but it will be highly disruptive.

The Cognitive Era will result in entirely new model of computing that includes a range of technology innovations in analytics, natural language processing and machine learning.

“Over time, it will be possible to build cognitive technologies into many of the IT solutions and human-designed systems on earth, imbuing them with a kind of “thinking” ability. These new capabilities will enable people and organizations to accomplish things they couldn’t before–understanding more deeply how the world works, predicting the consequences of actions, and making better decisions.” Source: IBM.

A Cognitive Computing Consortium has been formed.  The Consortium is focused on advancing innovation in cognitive computing.  It develops cognitive computing definitions, conducts research, and participates in the development of industry definitions and standards. It brings together leading industry and academic thinkers to advance the understanding of the nature, importance, and potential impact of cognitive computing.  Sue Feldman, author of The Answer Machine, is the visionary behind this initiative.

The analysts also agree …

  • “The numbers in the new AI field are staggering: more than 2,300 startups (a comprehensive list can be found here) have been founded; venture capitalists are investing billions of dollars.” Source: Forrester Research.
  • “IDC expects the overall market to grow significantly in the 2015–2019 forecast period, at a CAGR of approaching 35%.” Source: IDC.
  • “Smart machines are not future fantasy; they are commercially available. According to Gartner’s analysis of external sources, more than $10 billion have already been purchased through more than 2,500 technology companies.”  Source: Gartner.

These kinds of shifts just don’t happen that often.  The last one started before I was born.

Starting in the 1890s .. we were introduced to Tabulating Systems.  Massive growth in people and things demanded single-purpose systems that could count.  For the first time, a program like US Social Security was possible.  Counting machines (remember punch cards) were the norm during the Tabulating Systems era.

In the 1950s .. Programmable Systems innovation disrupted the Tabulating Systems Era.  Increasing complexity of business and society demanded multi-purpose systems that could apply logic to perform pre-programmed tasks.  Integrated circuits and stored memory enabled a new computing model.  For the first time, a feat like landing a man on the moon was possible through Programmable Systems.

We are at the dawn of a new era … the Cognitive Systems era.  Exploding data, connected devices and industry transformation needs require real-time judgment from systems that sense, learn and understand to help humans make better decisions for better outcomes.  With technology augmenting and extending human knowledge, it is difficult to imagine what’s not possible.  Get ready … Cognitive Systems are already here.

We can now confer on every digitized object, product, process and service a kind of thinking ability.  Cognitive systems eliminate many existing barriers preventing access to the world’s knowledge … from the world’s experts.

The fact is .. humans are pretty good at common sense, dilemmas, morals, compassion, imagination, dreaming, abstraction and generalization.  But we get tired, get distracted, make errors, need sleep and occasionally want to go on vacation.

Cognitive systems are powerful too.  Better and more scalable at natural language, pattern identification, locating knowledge, machine learning, eliminating bias with endless capacity.

IBM Watson is a cognitive system.  Watson is a cloud-based, open platform of expanding cognitive capabilities. With Watson, you can build cognition into digital applications, products and operations.  Watson is creating a new partnership between people and computers that enhances, scales and accelerates human expertise.

The race is on .. the Cognitive Era is here.  Educate yourself and start experimenting with cognitive computing now.  The opportunities to innovate with cognitive capabilities border on endless.  Build a new solution … or extend an existing solution with cognitive capabilities … or embed a cognitive function into a process.   In short, don’t be the slow kid in the neighborhood.

As always, lead me your comments and questions below.

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