December 20, 2012

The Age of Cognitive Computing

BY :     December 20, 2012

Every year in December, IBM publishes its “5 in 5” list: five technologies that will transform the world in the next five years. These innovations are supplied by their own experts from various IBM research labs worldwide.

This year the list differs from the last times. The new technologies that IBM provides this time are directly interrelated. They are all linked to the human senses. That’s why the company indicates the next era as the “the age of cognitive computing”. The computer reaches a higher level in the DIKW hierarchy. The computer already moved from the level of data processing to the level of information processing. Now it is entering the level of knowledge processing. This new ceiling requires that computers understand the world around us. Computers must develop the ability to perceive their environment and assigning meaning. This perception can only be realized when the computer has the same kind of senses as humans have. The computer must be able to see, hear, smell, taste and. Companies like Google with Project Glass, Apple with Siri and Microsoft with Kinect are already playing in this area. IBM is entering this space as well.

Smarter Planet on steroids

The past four years the “Smarter Planet” initiative was high on the agenda of IBM. Smarter Planet is IBM’s vision of the “Internet of Things”. Smarter Planet gives companies and institutions the tools to bring order to the chaos around them. According to IBM’s CIO Bernard Meyerson a number of technologies come together that dwarf the original ideas of the Smarter Planet initiative. The era of “cognitive computing” is Smarter Planet, but on steroids.

One of the most interesting aspects of this shift is the ability of machines to to mimic and strengthen the right side of the human brain. People have had computers in the that helped them to better understand how the world works. Now a number of new technologies come together, which enables people to better understand things at a much deeper level. As a direct result, people are able to make better decisions.

Technology augments humanity

The vision of IBM integrates seamlessly with the vision Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt. He talks about “Augmented Humanity”: “So in this notion of augmented humanity, or Google helping, helping computer companies, it’s not a new idea. It’s been around along time, Bill Gates in 1990 Comdex called it “Information at your Fingertips”. All the information someone might be interested zoals information thay they can not get today. An we’re nearly there, which is what’s so profound. An literally, you can literally know everything. It’s fantastic right? And this is only going to become more pervasive. Think about it as hearing, speaking, thinking, augmenting the way you understand things, all of it literally available to you now. That’s the big change, Because Of The combination of the mobile device, the network and thesis supercomputers. ”

Self-learning systems

In the coming years, computers will become more adept at dealing with complexity. Instead of relying on lines of code that are programmed by developers, computers will program themselves, so they can better adapt to the changing environment and expectations. Computers will self-learn by interacting with data in its various capacities: numbers, text, video, and so on. Increasingly, they are designed so that they think the same way as we humans do.

Meanwhile, we already know some of these examples: self-steering cars, the neural network of Google that recognizes cats and how Microsoft translates spoken language in realtime. All these systems experience the world with digital sensors that transcend the human senses. According to IBM’s Meyerson we don’t need not be afraid that the human intellect is replaced by an artificial brain. Our biological brain is only reinforced at those fronts where it is weak, “in the era of cognitive systems, humans and machines will collaborate to produce better results-each bringing Their Own superior skills to the partnership. The machines will be more rational and analytic. We’ll bieden the judgment, empathy, moral compass and creativity.”

Technology changes mankind

Marshall McLuhan, the oracle of the electronic age, once proclaimed: “All media are extensions of some human faculty. Mental or physical. The wheel is an extension of the foot. Facebook is an extension of the eye. Clothing is an extension of the skin. Electric circuitry is an extension of the central nervous system. The extension or anyone’s sense, displaces the other senses and alters the way we think. The way we see the world and ourselves. When changes are made thesis, we change.”

As technology becomes our natural interface – augments our senses – we will experience a more intimate relationship with information. Information literally gets under our skin. Our relationship with information becomes symbiotic. The one can not exist without the other. In the end mankind will change. Hopefully this is beneficial. IBM’s Meyerson thinks so as he writes at the end of his blog post: “[…] I do not believe That cognitive systems will usurp the role of human thinkers. Rather, they’ll make us more capable and more successful-and, hopefully, better stewards of the planet. “

Sander Duivestein


Sander Duivestein (1971) is a highly acclaimed and top-rated trendwatcher, an influential author, an acclaimed keynote speaker, a digital business entrepreneur, and a strategic advisor on disruptive innovations. His main focus is the impact of new technologies on people, businesses and society.

More on Sander Duivestein.

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    *Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group