Why cognitive systems?

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When Watson defeated Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in the Jeopardy! Challenge of February 2011, it was clear that a new kind of computing system was emerging – one that could learn, reason, and understand natural language.

The systems of today have delivered tremendous business and societal benefits by automating tabulation and harnessing computational processing and programming to deliver enterprise and personal productivity. The machines of tomorrow – cognitive systems -- will forever change the way people interact with computing systems to help people extend their expertise across any domain of knowledge and make complex decisions involving extraordinary volumes of fast moving Big Data.

In healthcare, IBM Watson for Oncology, trained by Memorial Sloan Kettering, helps oncologists treat cancer patients with individualized evidence-based treatment options by analyzing patient data against thousands of historical cases trained through more than 5,000 MSK MD and analyst hours. Watson can help doctors narrow down the options and pick the best treatments for their patients. The doctor still does most of the thinking. Watson is there to make sense of the data and help make the process faster and more accurate. For city leaders, these new systems can help them prepare for major storms to predict electrical outages, plan evacuations and prepare emergency management equipment and personnel to respond in the areas that will need it most.

That is the promise of cognitive systems--a category of technologies that uses natural language processing and machine learning to enable people and machines to interact more naturally to extend and magnify human expertise and cognition. These systems will learn and interact to provide expert assistance to scientists, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals in a fraction of the time it now takes.

Far from replacing our thinking, cognitive systems will extend our cognition and free us to think more creatively. In so doing, they will speed innovations and ultimately help build a Smarter Planet.

The era of cognitive systems

Cognitive Systems Colloquium

IBM hosted the Cognitive Systems Colloquium at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., on Oct. 2, 2013. The all-day event brought together leaders in science, technology and psychology to discuss the coming era of cognitive computing and to craft a shared agenda among industry, academia and government. The event included presenters such as Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman, A.I pioneer Danny Hillis, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Visiting Professor, MIT and Imperial College, and others.

The era of cognitive computing: Calling for a shared research agenda

Cognitive systems will require innovation breakthroughs at every layer of information technology, starting with nanotechnology and progressing through computing systems design, information management, programming and machine learning, and, finally, the interfaces between machines and humans. Advances on this scale will require remarkable efforts and collaboration, calling forth the best minds—and the combined resources–of academia, government and industry.

Zachary Lemnios, Vice President, Strategy, IBM Research

MIT's Thomas Malone on collective intelligence

The combination of people and computers will be able to think in a way that neither people nor computers have ever done before. I think that’s the really exciting potential and opportunity for us ahead.

Thomas Malone, Director, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence