Discussions of artificial intelligence or cognitive computing and their implications on society have recently become more popular, and with good reason. We are entering an entirely new age of understanding, and knowing.
These emerging technologies have the capacity to expand human understanding, and increase knowledge capacity. They ultimately provide a huge potential for proliferation of intelligent systems, and the expansion of human capability through other means.
What is Cognitive Computing?
First thing is first.
Cognitive computing is not the traditionally idealistic artificial intelligence seen on the big screen. It isn’t a move towards the establishment of an army of robots determined to take over the world by confining human beings to slavery. Or any of the other equally unlikely sci-fi plots to date.
Sorry to disappoint you, but don’t blame it on me, blame it on Hollywood for hyping things up.
Cognitive computing is a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and can be defined as the simulation of human thought processes in a computerized model. Cognitive computing involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works. It addresses complex problems characterized by ambiguity.
As these technologies are further proliferated, we will witness a move towards simulating how the human brain actually works.
The Cognitive Era:
The early 1900’s – 1940’s saw the Tabulating Era, where technology, and mechanical devices were largely utilized for organizing data and making calculations. In the 1950’s, new technology emerged wherein scientists built the first programmable computers, programmed by humans to perform predefined and specified tasks, in what is known as the Programming Era which, still continues today.
In 2011 the Cognitive era was initiated, which introduced cognitive based systems that are able to ‘build knowledge and learn, understand natural language, reason and they are capable of interacting more naturally with human beings than previous systems’[i]. They are also able to able to put content into context and provide confidence-weighted responses utilizing supporting evidence. These systems are also able to identify new patterns and insights. This means these systems would have the ability to do things, which surpass their prescript programs.
Why We need Cognitive Computing:
Many of the most fundamental building blocks of old school computing methods are just not doing it anymore. There is a need to invent new systems with new architectures to handle to mass amounts of data that are going to waste. Bid data goes largely unanalyzed, which leaves behind a multitude of valuable information that could contain the next big breakthrough.
Instead of waiting for commands, imagine the savings that will be realized via the utilization of computer that will offer advice rather than waiting for humans commands.
Future of Cognitive Computing:
The computers of today, are essentially large calculators. The machines of the future will do far more than compute, organize data and make calculations. They will be capable of more than mere programming for specific, predefined and often limited tasks.
These machines will be “able to sense, learn and predict the consequences of actions”.[ii] The goal of cognitive computing is to establish automated IT systems that can solve problems without human assistance or intervention. Unlike traditional computers, which, are designed to calculate rapidly, cognitive systems are designed to “analyze information and draw insights from it”. [iii]
Cognitive computing systems into the future may include things like vision-based sensing and image recognition, spatial and contextual awareness, automated reasoning and decision making. Characteristics such as pattern recognition, semantic understanding, common sense, emotional intelligence and robotic control will become more sophisticated.
These systems could also contain better-developed neural networks, machine learning and natural language processing.
No Need To Fear:
As previously stated, cognitive computing is unlikely to lead to a sci-fi horror scene, with autonomously thinking and emotionally independent threats to our well being. I know, disappointing right? Well, maybe not. Cognitive systems are not being designed to think like humans do, but rather, to assist human thinking and ultimately lead to better, more calculated, less bias decisions.
Rather than having systems run on the traditional blueprints of the Tabulating and Programming Era’s, cognitive systems will perform fundamentally different. Giving human intelligence the push it may need to solve some of our most prominent issues.
As systems become better able to learn and/or teach themselves based of their interactions with humans or data, this constant self-reprogramming will likely lead to intelligence breakthroughs.
We are truly on the verge of experiencing a technology transformation that will literally transform society, its functions and operations.
[i] Kelly III, Dr. John E. “Welcome to the Era of Cognitive Systems.” A Smarter Planet Blog. May 10th, 2012.http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2012/05/welcome-to-the-era-of-cognitive-syste ms.html.