What is Cognitive Computing and Why Should Program Executive Care ?

What makes up Cognitive Computing

Cognitive Computing is comprised of three main functional areas.  Which are: natural language processing, machine learning and hypotheses testing.  All three functions of cognitive computing combine to provide greater flexibility.  This helps address a broader array of business problems in public sector. Business problems that could not have been solved earlier.  Natural Language Processing enables machine learning and discovery algorithms to interact with the end user in a more meaningful way.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

            NLP describes a set of linguistic, statistical, and machine learning techniques that allow text to be analyzed. Which allows key information extraction for business value.  Natural Language analysis uses a pipeline processing approach.  Wherein the question or text is broken apart by algorithms.  So that the structure, intent, tone etc. is understood.  Specific domains of knowledge; such as legal, finance or social services, require targetted “dictionaries” or filters.  This helps to further improve the ability of the technology to understand what is being asked of it.

Some of the key benefits of NLP is it improves the interaction between human and systems.  Some additional benefits from NLP are as follows:

A questions contextual understanding can be derived from NLP. IT organizations develop a meta-data (information about information) strategy.  This gives more context to data and information sources.  The more meta-data and the more context added to a system; the better the understanding. This allows the improvement of finding information and then providing an answer back in natural language.  Instead of a page ranking result one would get from a typical search engine the response is in a form the user will understand.

The intent of a question is then better understood. Which means the cognitive system can better respond with a more meaningful response.  As well as return various responses with an associated confidence level.  This then gives the end user a more meaningful response with which to make a decision upon.

Natural Language Processing has taken interaction and access to information to a whole new level.  Which will in turn provide increased productivity and satisfaction to the end user.

Machine Learning

Machine Learning is all about using algorithms to help streamline organization, prediction and pattern recognition.   Big Data by itself can be daunting and only data scientists can build and interpret analysis by incorporating machine learning and natural language processing Big Data can only benefit from being easier to interpret by a broader user group.  Part of Machine Learnings “secret sauce” is deep neural networks to do information pattern analysis.

Deep neural networks, due to their multi-dimensional view can learn from regularities across layers of information which allows the machine learning algorithm to self-enhance its model and analysis parameters. This capability takes the onus away from the end user or data scientist to mine information from multiple sources.

The benefit to public sector programs is that deep domain knowledge will not be needed by the end user or the citizenry but have the machine learning algorithms to the heavy lifting and analysis for them.   

Historically organizations had to depend on limited ways to analyze and report on information which to a certain degree limited decision making and program outcomes.  Now with machine learning a key benefit is to access these systems with natural language or extremely flexible visualization tools which make decision making easier and more productive.  Since Cognitive systems are about knowledge automation vs. process automation.

Hypotheses Testing

A hypothesis is a proposed answer to pre-existing or understood responses.  From there a cognitive application will use the information that resides within a certain corpus or domain of knowledge to test the hypothesis.  Unlike humans who typically test hypothesis in a serial fashion one of the key benefits of a cognitive system is that it can test hundreds of hypothesis in parallel.  We see this occurring in areas such as health care or intelligence where various proposed outcomes are tested against a domain of knowledge.  The domain of knowledge can be comprised of many different sources and types of information. Given that cognitive systems have the ability to test large volumes of hypothesis at a high volume.  Programs and applications can benefit from the ability to provide improved means to make decisions with confidence and also to remove the “noise” surrounding what is trying to be resolved.  Some benefits from hypothesis testing are:

Causal Induction provides a key benefit to the user since it is based on statistical models deriving insight from a corpus or domain of knowledge.  As these models become more refined the ability to derive insightful responses provide more meaningful interactions with the end user or citizen.

Probabilistic Reasoning can generate multiple responses to a question which provides the user to see all aspects of an outcome versus generating a specific bias to the problem at hand.  This predicated on the system having enough context and also arriving at a specific level of confidence to provide an answer to the question.  As systems learn through interaction and feedback they will be able to identify if information is missing in order to provide an answer which again enhances the decision making process of a project or program

In summary; Cognitive Systems combine natural language processing with advanced algorithms and modelling tools to aid workers to make decisions in a shorter period of time and/or to provide more meaningful insight to a larger domain/corpus of information which the end user would never have been able to access or analyze prior to Cognitive Computing technologies


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