Amplifying human cognition with cognitive computing

By Rob High

Throughout history, humankind has created technologies that amplified our strengths. As an extension of the strength of our arms, we created the hammer; as an extension of the strength of our backs, the steam engine was born; and as an extension of our intelligence and skills, we created cognitive computing, a form of artificial intelligence (AI).

When we think about AI, it’s often about technology like natural language processing, smart homes and cars and virtual personal assistants. These solutions make people’s lives easier, and some may think they replace the need for human intervention altogether. But rather than replacing human minds, the purpose of cognitive computing is to make human cognition even stronger, even better. Cognitive computing enables people to see a perspective they wouldn’t have seen on their own; to recognize something they otherwise would have missed; to help them build an idea; to strengthen their creative processes.

Using cognitive computing to help save lives

IBM Watson for Oncology is able to assist oncologists when making decisions on how to treat their patients. Doctors do not have to rely solely on reading medical journals or finding treatments. By using cognitive computing, doctors can start with an understanding of the patient by extracting information from medical records. IBM Watson for Oncology is able to linguistically analyze clinical literature to recognize the intended meaning in the literature and whether it is relevant to the patient’s case, rather than processing a straight translation like a simple keyword search.

By performing micro-segmentation for population similarities and combining that with an analysis of the patients’ current disease states, possible treatments and regimes, and by monitoring progress, this cognitive system allows oncologists to predict and better prepare for treating side effects. The system is also able to analyze all clinical trials a patient may be eligible for to quickly get patients placed in clinical trials that best fit them. With less time analyzing reports on their own, oncologists are able to spend more time with their patients and making decisions, knowing they have all the crucial information they need.

Looking toward a future with cognitive computing

AI is used to inspire and assist creative processes. It doesn’t just perform individual tasks or answer single questions, it shapes conversations with people that help to build out ideas. People work collaboratively to come up with and build on ideas in the presence of a cognitive system. Rather than thinking about AI like natural language processing — as a simple back-and-forth conversation — we look at it as a conversation between human and machine. The outcome of this dialogue is an amplification of human intelligence.

Written By

Rob High

IBM Fellow, VP, CTO Watson, IBM Academy of Technology

Rob has responsibility for the application of deep natural language processing in inferring answers from massive quantities of unstructured information. He leads IBM Watson technical strategy and thought leadership by working collaboratively with engineering, research and development…

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