Welcome to a new era. The era of cognitive computing. It’s the next step forward for computing. It will be bigger than the PC revolution. It will make the smartphone explosion look tiny.
This era of cognitive computing will change how you look at machines. It will change how you interact with computers. It will change how you work, play and communicate with other humans.
That might sound like quite a grandiose statement. But the truth is this cognitive computing age has been coming at us for some time. Mankind for some reason is dead-set on creating artificial intelligence (AI). Why? I’m not sure to be honest.
When you think about it, the idea of creating a machine that thinks like a human is, well a bit nuts. It’s quite egotistical, a little narcissistic. And the deeper you look at it, the more it seems borderline insane.
Whatever the reason, our progression towards AI is getting faster. True AI is some way off, though. Until we can map and understand the brain, AI won’t really exist.
From the genome to the brain
The BRAIN Initiative in the US and the Human Brain Project in Europe are working towards mapping the brain. Inspired by the Human Genome Project these initiatives are aiming to understand the brain.
Sounds simple enough right? Well not really. The brain is like the ‘final frontier’ of human anatomy. It’s the last major part of the body we really don’t understand. We know a lot about it, we know a lot of what it does. But we don’t really know how. And we certainly don’t know what it’s truly capable of.
The Human Genome project was hard. But compared to the brain initiative, it was easy.
The human genome has 23 chromosomes pairs. Then there are around three billion DNA base pairs.
The average human brain has somewhere in the region of 100 billion neurons.
To make things more complicated, each neuron may connect to around 10,000 other neurons.
When passing signals around the brain there may be as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. The brain is incredibly complex.
Yet consider the impact mapping the genome has had on the world. The human genome project completed in 2003. It helped create whole new biotech industries. Industry like personalised medicine and genetic analysis. Even genetic engineering and manipulation.
Think about some of the companies that have seen the benefit of the human genome project.
- Illumina Inc. [NASDAQ:ILMN] (market cap US$22.73 billion and 14,553% gain in 12 years)
- Gilead Sciences [NASDAQ:GILD] (market cap US$118 billion and 1,907% gain in 12 years)
- Celgene Corporation [NASDAQ:CELG] (market cap US$79.93 billion and 3,318% gain in 12 years)
If we can map the brain, the opportunities for investment make those billion dollar biotechs look tiny. When we map the brain entirely a whole new industry will open up. And when that time comes, it will create a whole new biotechnology boom.
It will also create a new computing boom. A boom even beyond cognitive computing. Map the human brain and the AI era will arrive.
Until that point — which may not be all that far away — computers will continue to get smarter.
The cognitive opportunity
Through advances in software and hardware we’re making machines more human-like. However we’re still short of AI. Where we’re at now is cognitive computing.
Cognitive computing gives machines the ability to think like humans. Not be like humans, but follow similar ‘thought processes’. The machines can ‘learn’ via input. But they can’t really learn on their own just yet. And there’s always the lack of consciousness.
With cognitive computing in its current form there’s big opportunity up for grabs. Major industry across the world sees it too.
Soon enough it will filter down to the individual. Your next generation laptop or smartphone will have cognitive capability.
If we can leverage cognitive computing we can work faster, smarter and more efficiently. We can free up time to be more social. We can spend more time with our families and friends. We can raise our standards of living.
For IBM [NYSE:IBM] this opportunity has a monetary benefit.
Fortune magazine reports,
‘IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty said the company sees a huge opportunity—$2 trillion worth—in [cognitive computing] over the next decade. And that’s above and beyond the $3 trillion opportunity in more traditional IT gear like servers, software, storage boxes and the like, said executives. Rometty stressed, more than once, that IBM is now a “cognitive computing and cloud company.”’
US$2 trillion sounds like a lot. And it is. But IBM says they’re creating new industry. New opportunities. Some of these opportunities include healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, heavy industry, automotive, financial, property and even the blockchain.
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The ability for cognitive computing to assist industry is massive. You should get used to it, too. Before you know it you might be working with cognitive computing.
MasterCard is starting to use cognitive computing. Their sales team will have access to a new system from Rainbird. Rainbird is an AI start-up MasterCard bought. Now, using their in-house tech, staff will be able to refer to the cognitive system. This will help them decide the most appropriate direction to take next.
The Royal Bank of Scotland is also looking at using cognitive systems. Their aim is to help with phone and online customer enquiries. Mizuho Bank in Tokyo is also getting into it. They’ve gone even more high tech. They’re using robots and cognitive systems. The robots will help people who come into a branch with enquiries.
All over the world, major corporations are turning to cognitive computing. They want to run more streamline businesses. They want to cut costs. They want to be more profitable. To do this they need more advanced computing. Cognitive computing.
It’s only a matter of time until this technology filters down into the home. When it does, we’ll all be a part of the cognitive era.