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Posted by John Brand on May 21, 2013
IBM has just announced that one of Australia’s “big four” banks, the ANZ, will adopt the IBM Watson technology in their wealth management division for customer service and engagement. Australia has always been an early adopter of new technologies but I’d also like to think that we’re a little smarter and savvier than your average geek back in high school in 1982.
IBM’s Watson announcement is significant, not necessarily because of the sophistication of the Watson technology, but because of IBM's ability to successfully market the Watson concept.
To take us all back a little, the term ‘cognitive computing’ emerged in response to the failings of what was once termed ‘artificial intelligence’. Though the underlying concepts have been around for 50 years or more, AI remains a niche and specialist market with limited applications and a significant trail of failed or aborted projects. That’s not to say that we haven’t seen some sophisticated algorithmic based systems evolve. There’s already a good portfolio of large scale, deep analytic systems developed in the areas of fraud, risk, forensics, medicine, physics and more.
Compared to cognitive computing though, artificial intelligence is actually a very specific - and more accurate - term. It’s not real intelligence. It’s artificial. Real intelligence is not just about being able to quickly recall some facts or identify patterns in information at blazingly fast speeds. It’s as much about understanding context, intuition and peripheral vision as it is about intelligently handling what data you already have. After all, it wasn’t until the very last part of last century before we identified that personal relationship intelligence (EQ) was just as important to human existence as knowledge-based intelligence (IQ).
So let’s get real. Despite the fact that “Watson” was trained to successfully win a game show (Jeopardy), IBM’s technology (and others to be fair) are not cognitive computing systems at all. That’s not to say they aren’t valuable - just that we shouldn’t overstate their value or capabilities.
Here’s a few personal takes on IBM’s Watson “technology”.
IBM’s Watson is an evolved collection of technologies wrapped with some deep human expertise. If you’re trying to sell the message of deploying more advanced technologies within your organisation, then “buying Watson” might just be an easy sell. If you’re expecting an easy implementation of some very sophisticated technology though, you may just be a little disappointed.
What’s your view on Watson and how likely is it that your organisation will soon go down the "cognitive computing" path?
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