Varun Grover, 2nd Year, ECE.
As we enter a new era of science and innovation, major challenges pose themselves in various domains. This is primarily because of the prevalence of vast amounts of unstructured data or Big Data that grows exponentially in almost every field. These challenges are not such that can be tackled by a single human being or by a computer. We need integrated intelligence to expand the boundaries of what humans and computers can individually accomplish. Cognitive computing does just that. By using neuromorphic technologies, we essentially create computers that can sense, recommend, learn, perceive and in some ways think. Imagine having a computer as a friend, a colleague or a mentor rather than a simple tool or machine. Cognitive computing transcends the limitations of a general-purpose computer by creating a different architecture. Using the algorithms of machine learning and artificial intelligence, we enable the system to learn the intricacies of a domain and analyse the magnitudes of unstructured data associated, to help take better decisions.
IBM Research has taken massive strides forward in this area and created IBM Watson, a cognitive computing system that debuted in the famous American television game show “Jeopardy!” The show features a quiz competition in which contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in question form. It required natural language processing, sieving through volumes of data, confidently arriving at a conclusive solution after preparing a list of hypotheses, and then giving the correct answer. IBM Watson did this all in a matter of seconds to compete with humans in this show. The machine emerged victorious, powered by a massive room sized “brain” and roaring cooling system. It opened a window that very few among us even knew it existed. A window to a world where human beings and intelligent, intuitive machines work harmoniously to take on new world challenges, to create and innovate.
A world, where a similar system is now being employed in healthcare to help medical practitioners arrive at more accurate diagnostics. By sifting through the large quantities of unstructured data such as the patient’s medical history, medical tests and journal articles, IBM Watson Paths arrives at possible diagnosis and shows the evidence backing each of its hypotheses. This can also help teach medical students the critical reasoning and analysis required to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis or treatment option. The interaction between humans and such cognitive systems is seamless and natural as these machines can understand and interpret natural language and become experts in specific domains through machine learning and not hardwired coding. They use image and speech recognition as their eyes and ears. They learn by experience and get better as their knowledge increases in a manner similar to humans. Most importantly, as was evident by a recent initiative by IBM called Cognitive Cooking, such systems can also create. The IBM food truck recently used a cognitive computer to reinvent traditional dishes by recommending unconventional ingredients resulting in gourmet delicacies. Yummy!