A New Era of Technology: Cognitive Computing

The History of computing is threefold: firstly giving rise to the era of ‘Tabulation,’ personified by calculators and electron tubes. The next era saw the transition from electron tubes to microprocessors. Technology would continue in this general direction, eventually coming to a point where the ‘Machine’ concept would allow for a more ‘Human’ element to its makeup. Indeed, this new era comes in the form of Cognitive Computing, where a PC can assist users in problem solving through thinking like a human.



Indeed, Cognitive computing is a form of highly sophisticated technology that possesses the inbuilt capacity to learn, with the ability to adapt to changing stimuli, similar to that of the human brain. Perhaps such advances in Artificial Technology can remind us of certain commonplace features and characters within popular Sci-Fi shows; the AI system ‘Jarvis,’ from the film Iron-Man in particular, comes to mind. Indeed, such technologies which once solely existed within the realm of fiction, has now taken its first steps into reality.

An early example of this is IBM’s ‘Watson,’ a sophisticated system based on the functions of cognitive computing. Watson was equipped with 15TBs of RAM, and could process 500GB of data (comparable to reading millions of books every second). Armed with these capabilities, the computer had succeeded in beating several of its human counterparts during a variety of competitions in 2008, topping several world champions and winning a $1 million prize. Such advances show the first signs of the ‘Robot’ concept shifting from the realm of ‘Machine’ to a truly artificial kind of ‘Intelligence.’

Watson capitalizes on a highly analytical AI function called ‘Natural Language Processing,’ which gives the machine the ability to put language into context, thereby processing the subtleties of speech and giving it non-linear thinking abilities, similar to that of humans (Lesser AIs function on only linear thinking capabilities). This adds to the quality of a robot’s thinking capabilities in ways which mimic the complexities of human problem solving. For example, Watson does not only answer proposed questions, but also gives proof as to ‘Why?’ In other words, cognitive computing technology has improved robot reasoning skills to the point where they can now imperfectly replicate human thinking.