For decades, results of Artificial Intelligence (AI) research remained relatively unimpressive. But the creation of viable AI products, and this technology becoming more mainstream have changed the way we look at smart machines. We've seen the headlines: Deep Blue, IBM's supercomputer, defeats chess champion Garry Kasparov – 1997; IBM's supercomputer Watson trounces its two competitors on television – 2011; Google's AlphaGo beats Go master Lee Se-dol – 2016. This technology is definitely arriving in a hurry. And if predictions on the rate of adoption over the next few years are accurate, this will transform our lives in many profound ways.
This article will present a definition of Artificial Intelligence or Cognitive Computing (CC) as it is better known today, and some categories of current applications of the technology. It will also suggest how the technology might affect the defence business, either benefiting our communities or threatening them.
What is Cognitive Computing?
There are no agreed definitions of CC; however, we can identify the following commonly acknowledged characteristics:
1. Natural Language Processing – The machine should be able to understand everyday languages, in the spoken or written form. This means that the user does not interact with it using special 'programming languages' or even menus with finite choices. The machine is able to deal with data that does not possess any predefined structure.
2. Machine Learning / Deep Learning – Normally machines are programmed by experts, using programming languages which command the machine to behave in specific ways. A CC machine is rather programmed in a manner similar to a human being, it learns based on its experiences.
3. Perception – The machine needs to be able to take into account its changing environment. It has sensors that extract information which it uses to learn and make decisions. These might include: sight, sound, speed, temperature, network probes, etc.
4. Mimics Human Abilities – The machine behaves in ways similar to a human. It does not have a predefined set of rules which it applies to a problem, but rather it reasons, defines hypotheses, and makes recommendations as to appropriate courses of action. This can lead to unanticipated and novel results.
This categorization of Cognitive Computing is intended to discuss the types of applications of this technology which are being made today and in the near future.
1. Category 1 – Intelligent Personal Assistants. We have all used Cortana, Siri or Google Assistant on our mobile phones to ask questions, play our favourite tunes, or switch on our household lights. These are much more than voice recognition applications as they are connected to other applications and respond to our commands.
2. Category 2 – Specialized Applications. This category consists of specialized, and somewhat limited applications, designed to solve particular problems. One interesting example is x.ai's Amy, an application designed to schedule meetings for you. Once you've indicated the meeting's participants, it searches all their calendars to find a slot when everyone is available.
3. Category 3 – Intelligent Agents. These applications use cognitive technologies to replace people, carrying out repetitive low to medium skill jobs. Examples include ipSoft's Amelia, a cognitive agent that replaces / augments call centres and is able to answer calls, diagnose problems, resolve issues or escalate the call to the next support level. Amelia communicates using everyday languages, works 24/7, senses the emotional state of the caller, and can even help defuse a situation.
4. Category 4 – Platforms. While many companies are working with the technology to build applications to solve a narrow class of problems, others are working to create general-purpose cognitive platforms that can be used to build solutions to a wide range of problems. This includes, among others IBM's Watson. Applications such as GoMoment's Ivy have been built on top of Watson to satisfy a particular need – in this case, a 24-hour hotel concierge service.
5. Category 5 – Robotic Agents
. This is an exciting, rapidly developing category that is likely to have a very profound effect on our lives in coming years. It differs from Category 3: Intelligent Agents, as it mixes CC with a physical presence and mobility. Self-driving cars will soon be on our roads, there are hotels in Japan where everything from the concierge to the bell boy are robots, reducing labour costs by around 75%.