Home > Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive systems > Musings on Cognitive systems & Artificial Intelligence

Musings on Cognitive systems & Artificial Intelligence

Some would describe cognitive systems as systems which are not programmed, they   understand, reason and learn.  In these respects they are similar to the human brain.  Artificial intelligence which is usually associated with machine learning could be viewed as a subset of Cognitive systems

The physicist Stephen Hawking states “The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

The general thinking is that today AI is not self-aware, it has no consciousness and is far from being a sentient being.  However before you get too comfortable, consider this.  If we assume that the first step towards reaching self-awareness is to achieve “creativity” we should pause to reflect on the fact that scientists at Columbia University taught robots to paint on canvas– of the robots so trained PX18 stood out in its artistic abilities as you see here.


[Included with permission from Hod Lipson of Columbia University]

If creativity has been breached and the next step is self-awareness, consider this:  Roboticists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York have built a trio of robots that were put through the classic ‘wise men puzzle’ test of self-awareness – and one of them passed.

Think about IBM Watson for a minute, Watson appeared on the TV show Jeopardy and was posed a question: “Iron fitting on the hoof of a horse or a card-dealing box in a casino.”  Watson responded with the correct answer: “What is shoe?” 

Reflect on this for a moment.  The word shoe was used as a pun, a way to confuse Watson – a pun being defined as the use of a word in an ambiguous way so as to draw parallels between two concepts.  The implication to humanity according to Thomas L Friedman (a columnist for the NY Times) is: A “Cognitive computer was faster than 2 humans in identifying a pun posed in natural language!

One of the many successors to Watson is IBM’s Watson Explorer a tool which uses natural language processing, can provide search, indexing and a 360 degree view of entities to its user.  A Japanese insurance company Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with “IBM Watson Explorer,” starting January 2017.

So to our fearless leader who proclaimed that he would build “ a great, great wall on our southern border”  to stem the flow of manufacturing jobs,  I must break the news it is not just blue-collar jobs but also white-collar jobs that will need to refocus to ensure gainful employment for all.  Stemming the tide of technology isn’t a realistic option, it is too late to close Pandora’s box now. Cognitive systems and AI are here to stay, now the question before humanity is – How will we use them for our collective betterment?


[Engraving based on a painting by FS Church]

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