Advancement of Human Intelligence and Cognitive Systems

Humans and machines have evolved together over time. Within the past 200 years, technology, and human use of it, has significantly improved beyond most expectations. But the Internet, digital technologies and the mass number of mobile devices, offers massive amounts of data that require new ways of analyzing it. Irving Wladawsky-Berger suggests that cognitive systems can perform the task, and help make new determinations on a much larger scale.

A recently published book “Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing,” by John Kelly and Steve Hamm, predict a major shift in the evolution of technology in the next 20 years. This shift will transform all aspects of life and work, and they call it “cognitive computing.”

Kelly and Hamm describe three eras of computing: The first involves calculating machines that only tabulate provided data. The second is programmable computing that can perform any list of instructions. And the last involves “Big Data,” the massive amounts of information being created by human users and devices themselves, and is perhaps the most important.

The age involving massive data requires new approaches to deal with the “Internet of All Things.” This is where special computing can be most adaptive, problem solving, data driven, and is the most human. Research into previous ideas of artificial intelligence, dating from the 1960s and 1970s, attempted to address cognitive computers without real success, and interest in it is now fading as new ways to analyze data are found.

Search engines reflect the act of searching through vasts amounts of information that is commonplace, and in human terms, slow, while a computer can do it faster. In February 2011, Watson was IBM’s experimental computer that won the “Jeopardy!” game show. Watson illustrates the ability of computers to obtain meaning from large amounts of unstructured data from various sources such as books, newspapers and others, written in natural language.

“A cognitive system, on the other hand, can analyze many thousands of options at the same time, including the large number of infrequently occurring ones, as well as ones that the expert has never seen before,” writes Dr. Wladawsky-Berger in The Wall Street Journal. “It evaluates the probability of each option being the answer to the problem, and then comes up with the most likely options, that is, those with the highest probabilities.”

Dr. Wladawsky-Berger continues that, “the cognitive system has access to huge amounts of information of all kinds, both structured and unstructured.” This may be one of its strengths in the era of Big Data.