Cognitive Computing Explained In One Paragraph

The phrase "cognitive computing" is often bandied about when discussing artificial intelligence, data mining and deep machine learning. But what does it actually mean? During Nvidia's GTC technology conference, IBM Watson's chief technology officer Rob High gave a perfect distillation of this complex topic.

AI image from Shutterstock

Watson is a question answering computer system developed by IBM that is capable of interpreting natural everyday language and responding in kind. This ability to "think" unassisted allows it to interact with human customers on their own terms. Unlike most automated attendants, there's no need to constantly repeat yourself or speak like a robot.

Watson is an example of what IBM likes to call "cognitive computing", which is the latest buzzword in artificial intelligence. While usage of this term is rising, finding a concise definition can be surprisingly difficult. Most dictionaries don't include the phrase at all, while Wikipedia's definition clocks in at a heady 700 words.

During a IBM's keynote address at GTC 2016, Watson's CTO Rob High explained precisely what cognitive computing consists of:

Cognitive systems are able to learn their behavior through education. They support forms of expression that are more natural for human interaction [which] allows them to interpret data regardless of how it is communicated. Their primary value is their expertise and the ability to continuously evolve as they experience new information, new scenarios and new responses — all at enormous scale.

In short, cognitive computing is artificial intelligence as it applies to human-esque problem solving. As High explained, the difference mainly comes down to which jargon you prefer.

See also: How Watson Counters Customer Stupidity | 10 Enduring Myths About Artificial Intelligence, Debunked By Science

Lifehacker travelled to GTC 2016 in San Jose, California as a guest of Nvidia.


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