“Welcome to the Era of Cognitive Systems” | John E. Kelly III | A Smarter Planet Blog

Cognitive systems learn from interactions with data and humans, continuously reprogramming themselves, says John Kelly from IBM Research.

Today, we are at the dawn of another epochal shift in the evolution of technology. At IBM Research, we call it the era of cognitive systems.  [….]

Notice, I don’t use the term “thinking machines.” That’s because I don’t want to suggest that cognitive systems will think like humans do. Rather, they will help us think and make better decisions.

How do we define the era of cognitive systems? It helps to compare it to what came before. The tabulating era began in the 19th century and continued until the 1940s. Those mechanical devices were used to organize data and make calculations that were useful in everything from conducting a national population census to tracking the performance of a company’s sales force. The programmable computing era emerged in the 1940s when scientists built the first electronic programmable computers. Successive generations of computing technology enabled everything from space exploration to the Internet.

Cognitive systems are fundamentally different. Traditional computers, which are still based on the blueprint that mathematician John von Neumann laid out in the 1940s, are programmed by humans to perform specific tasks. Cognitive  systems are capable of learning from their interactions with data and humans—essentially continuously reprogramming themselves. Traditional computers are designed to calculate rapidly. Cognitive systems are built to analyze information and draw insights from it. Traditional computers are organized around microprocessors. With cognitive systems, it’s about the data and drawing insights from it through analytics.

Because of these changes, the machines of the future will do much more than compute. They will be able to sense, learn and better predict the consequences of actions. In the years ahead, machines will cull insights from the vast amounts of information being gathered to help us learn how the world really works, and make sense of all of that complexity, and provide trusted advice to humans—whether heads of state or individuals trying to manage their careers or finances. Computing intelligence will become ubiquitous and pervasive. Increasingly, computers will offer advice, rather than waiting for commands.

John Kelly | “Welcome to the Era of Cognitive Systems” | May 10, 2012 | A Smarter Planet Blog at http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2012/05/welcome-to-the-era-of-cognitive-systems.html.

Read more at “Cognitive systems: A new era of computing” | IBM Research at