The cognitive era, also known as cognitive transformation, is considered to be the next step in our ongoing technological evolution. Profound changes are in the corporate environment are already occurring, and the companies that fail to adapt to them will be left behind. Here’s how to prepare for the coming wave.
Science fiction lovers often celebrate the ongoing revolution stemming from computing and technology. These days, what was once fantasy, is coming closer and closer to becoming a reality. Isaac Asimov was one of the most well-known science fiction novelists and helped build an intellectual edifice for the future of robotics and artificial intelligence. His work foretold of the various concepts and advances that we now refer to as the cognitive era. Now it’s your turn to learn about the coming transformation and how it can help you run your business.
Asimov, who wrote such seminal novels as I, Robot, coined the following three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law;
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
With the latest technological advances, these laws, which sprang from the mind of a science fiction writer, have become relevant in our day-to-day experiences as we’ve reached an inflection point where computers can now learn by themselves.
The third computer revolution
To understand the cognitive age, let’s first recapitulate the two eras that preceded it. At first, computers were essentially massive calculators. At the beginning of the computer age, gigantic mainframes had the same capabilities as a (cheap) pocket calculator does today. Up to the 1940s, computers were used to facilitate work with jobs that ran the gamut from cash registers to country-level demographic studies.
Significant advances came after World War II. Computers had to encrypt messages and perform tasks that were much more elaborate than just adding or subtracting. This requirement led to the creation of a new generation of programmable machines. Many of the apps on your mobile, while having an ultra-modern appearance, are still a part of this second era of computing, the programming era.
As a result of these changes, the generation of data has grown exponentially. According to IBM (in Portuguese), 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last two years. Most of the data is structured in much the same way as we humans process the information. That is, it is not structured at all. The world backlog of data is made up of a miscellany of annotations, non-standardized publications, social media interactions and various differing system logs.
In order to be able to analyze such an enormous torrent of information and then employ it to solve complex problems, systems were developed that could simulate human reasoning, but with infinitely greater access to data and at vastly higher speeds. And what was the end-result of this development? That’s right: computers that are capable of learning. This is where Asimov’s laws of robotics become applicable to our current technological progress, we must harness this cognitive power before it spins out of our control.
>> Recommended reading: I, Robot: Robobosses are Micromanaging Machines
Welcome to the cognitive era
Watson is the most well-known cognitive system. IBM named its creation in honor of the company’s founder – Thomas John Watson. The system became famous when it beat two of the Jeopardy game show’s all-time champions in 2011. If Watson was already considered “intelligent” back then, imagine what’s it’s like now that it’s had more time to learn.
Deep Blue is another of the forerunners of the cognitive era. Just over twenty years ago, the program vanquished the reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov. Back then, the world was astounded that a machine was capable of defeating one of humanity’s great intellectual champions. These days that would no longer be considered surprising at all.
To learn, we must first unlearn
The fact that we call the most advanced and innovative technologies disruptive is a reflection of their power. These technologies cause sharp breaks in the status quo, forcing us to abandon one mindset in favor of another. We literally have to unlearn our previous beliefs in order to be able to understand and take advantage of the new paradigms. Cognitive transformation theory addresses this “unlearning” through a system of feedback and analysis.
Learning ceases to be the sum of our knowledge, as it becomes the creation and development of the best ways to find solutions to complex problems. If we were to compare the process to our own cognitive development, it would be the difference between learning by rote and learning to thinking analytically.
Computer systems and humans thinking together
Cognitive transformation, like any other technological advance, will end up eliminating some jobs. However, history has proven that technological advances also end up creating new classes of professions that can partially or fully replace the lost jobs. Instead of replacing human thought, artificial intelligence will boost our own cognitive abilities.
Currently, “robots” don’t make any decisions; they simply provide us with an immense amount data analysis that can pave the way for us to do so. Watson, making use of probabilities while accessing a database of pathologies and data on the patient’s overall health can successfully make diagnoses with a margin of error that is far smaller than those made by human beings. With this kind of diagnostic power behind them, doctors can act more assertively, adding Watson’s cognitive power to that of their own.
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Cognitive transformation in full swing
We have already spoken here, on other posts, about automation in marketing and the impact that artificial intelligence is having on management. The advent of Big Data and our ever-increasing ability to analyze immense quantities of data is enabling truly user-centric innovations. This accelerated about two years ago when versions of Watson and other systems were made available to interested businesses. Many companies are already reaping the dividends stemming from this new cognitive era.
IBM highlights three key points for successful cognitive transformation in corporations:
- The user-experience;
- Data generated from experiential observations;
- People’s interactions after an in-depth analysis of the data.
Regarding the user experience, this article in Entrepreneur reports on a study conducted by Altimeter in 2017. The survey collected information from digital transformation professionals about their use of resources implementing such transformation. 46.6% said they invest in creating a seamless customer experience across all devices and channels.
Finally, each of these points – experience, data and people – come with inherent challenges that must be overcome. As we noted above, certain ways of thinking must be “unlearned” in order to make room for new forms of thinking.
We must maintain our focus on the user, treat data as a necessary and fundamental resource, and work in an integrated manner with this newfound and immense capacity for numerical analysis. This way, it will become possible to link human and technological strengths, launching your company into the cognitive era.
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In that same article in Entrepreneur, the author refers to a topic that precedes cognitive transformation: digital first. Digital and mobile technologies enable businesses to monitor the user experience, data collection, processing, and baseline decision-making.
Add technology to your workflows, your team’s day-to-day routines, and your company’s relationships. At that point, your company’s transformation will really begin.
Don’t start thinking that the cognitive era lies in a distant future which will be limited to major corporations. Isaac Asimov wrote more than 200 books that were well-received by both scientists and the general public, disseminating advanced concepts to a wide audience. Cognitive transformation is much the same: it is available to people and businesses which are willing to unlearn old methods of thinking, thereby joining forces with artificial intelligence and moving into the cognitive era.
Start your transition into the new era by adopting a tool for automation like Runrun.it into your team’s routines and workflows. It is a management platform that streamlines processes and optimizes your internal and external communications. Furthermore, Runrun.it benefits from intelligent algorithms that make real-time estimates of deliverables and predict potential delays to your project pipeline. Sign up for a free trial at https://runrun.it.