Cognitive 101: A Story of What is Cognitive Computing

At the On Point Summit, Chitra Dorai, IBM Fellow, opened with a beautiful story. She said:

Let me take you back to 1950: the Tabulating Era has ended and the Programmable Era has just started. That year, Alan Turing publishes an article entitled: Computing Machinery and Intelligence. In it he wrote, ‘I propose to consider the question, ‘can machines think’?

In 2013, I remember watching IBM’s Watson beat two human champions on Jeopardy in real time. In 2014, I remember taking a few of my clients to meet IBM’s Watson. I watched her be asked and answer questions in real-life. It was unbelievable to see technology respond correctly to human questions — as any human genius would.

From then on, my answer to Turing’s question became a resounding, “yes.”

Cognitive Computing became a real thing.

It’s now 2016. What has changed between then and now? We have access to mounds of data and we can now build systems that can learn from that data. That — along with the gathering of some of the smartest humans on our planet and the exponential growth (thanks Moore’s Law!) of analytical technology, machine learning systems, and computational power — has nourished and birthed Cognitive Computing.

Just take a look at Pepper. She’s a robot who talks, dances and recognizes emotions.

As we know it, Cognitive Computing is a technology baby that carries 3 core traits. These include, the ability to:

  1. Process natural language (the ability to understand and respond in language)
  2. Form assertions and make recommendations
  3. Continue to learn

As Cognitive Computing grows-up, we will see her — not only think for herself — but also develop vision, smell, taste, and touch. It’s all part of natural progression.

As Eric Brown of IBM Watson explains, Cognitive Computing will:

Expand human cognition, learn with use, and interact naturally.

I agree. To that I add: Cognitive Computing will work for us (and with us) at work and at home. She will become a close friend with whom we elevate the way we work, live, learn and play.

I can’t wait to have her over!

“Cognitive 101” is an introductory series on the world of Cognitive Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Written by Lolita Taub and written for C-suite and Line-of-Business seeking to address business challenges and goals using the smartest tech.

Originally published at on September 12, 2016.

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