Smart Machines - IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing (Anglais) Relié – 29 octobre 2013
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I picked up this idea from Smart Machines: IBM's Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing. It is co-written by John Kelly, the director of IBM Research and Steve Hamm, my friend and former colleague at BusinessWeek.
I wrote a book about 2011 Watson (Final Jeopardy). So you might think I would find this material familiar. But it's a very useful, concise and engaging guide to the future of computing--which is also the future of knowledge, sensing, decision-making and discovery. I read it in about two hours. It led me from employment opportunities for Watson to frontiers of Big Data and the physics of new computing. It's hard to summarize the future of cognitive computing, but these two sentences come pretty close: "In the programmable-computing era, people have to adapt to the way computers work. In the cognitive era, computers will adapt to people."
Returning briefly to the baby example, the idea is that apps will eventually be able to crunch enough data to decode their noises and, effectively, put words in their mouths. Of course, not all babies will use the same noises. I imagine that the program will come with a standard template, and that parents will have ways to correct the machine's early mistakes, helping it to customize its analysis for each baby. And as those fixes make their way to the cloud service, it will grow more sophisticated, just like Google Voice or Siri.
Another similar challenge, I imagine, will be to interpret the noises and gestures of animals, and to get them also to talk to us. This animal analysis could probably benefit from smell sensors, another innovation previewed in the book. Such sensors could pick up molecules of chemicals signaling an animal's fear, confusion, hunger and sexual drive.
Do we want a machine announcing that Rover is hungry or horny or needs to go out for one reason or another? That could be too much information. But the marketplace will iron out those issues. For now, we at least know from a very good IBM book that the technology is en route.
The authors describe how computers work and how many experts imagine computers will have to work in the future to achieve "smartness". They discuss tools that are being developed today, current research that looks auspicious for future developments, and areas for future research that they believe to hold promise. The emphasis is on work done at IBM, but efforts by others are also mentioned. A central theme to the new technology is how to cope with the vast increase in data available, and the main approach discussed is various ways to move processing closer to the data to eliminate the time lost in moving the data to the processor.
Kelly and Hamm envision a cognitive system as analogous to Russian nesting dolls and devote separate chapters to each. The layers are:
Chapter 2: how humans interact with computers and get them to do what we want,
Chapter 3: how we organize and interpret data,
Chapter 4: (possibly my favorite chapter) how we enhance computers to have the machine equivalent of ALL of our senses, not just the obvious sight and hearing, but also touch, taste, and smell.
Chapter 5: how we put together the physical components of a computer, the computer architecture, and
Chapter 6: how we build the core components to manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic scale, exploit nanotechnology, and invent a new physics of computing in order to increase processing speeds significantly.
The final chapter imagines how cognitive technology can help run the city of the future.
This is a survey of a rather large field (or fields); readers who become interested in some aspect will want to follow up references to get details. To those not familiar with work on intelligent machines it is a fascinating introduction. Those who have already read in the field are not likely to learn anything new, but the material is structured in a way that brings coherence to a subject that specialists tend to see only in bits and pieces. How good is their vision? Come back in 25 years, and our smart machines will help us decide.
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