Cognitive computing refers to systems that learn at scale, reason with purpose, and interact with humans naturally. Most important, rather than being explicitly programmed, they learn and reason from their interactions with us and from their experiences with their environment.
They are made possible by advances in a number of scientific fields over the past half-century, and are different in important ways from the information systems that preceded them. Those systems have been deterministic; cognitive systems are probabilistic. They generate not just answers to numerical problems, but hypotheses, reasoned arguments, and recommendations about more complex – and meaningful – bodies of data.
Build on its strengths in cognitive computing, analytics and security it can help improve the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate by surfacing new insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created daily. The Watson Health Cloud allows this information to be anonymized, shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data.
This is what IBM Watson was built to do, and is in fact already doing. Banks are analyzing customer requests and financial data to surface insights to help them make investment recommendations. Companies in heavily regulated industries are querying the system to keep up with ever-changing legislation and standards of compliance. And oncologists are testing ways in which cognitive systems can help interpret cancer patients’ clinical information and identify individualized, evidence-based treatment options that leverage specialists’ experience and research.
What is the experience of this like for the professionals involved? World renowned oncologist Dr. Larry Norton of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which is working with Watson to help physicians personalize cancer treatments, says,
Computer science is going to evolve rapidly, and medicine will evolve with it. This is co-evolution. We’ll help each other. I envision situations where myself (sic), the patient, the computer, my nurse, and my graduate fellow are all in the examination room interacting with one another.*
In this session Haig A. Peter from the IBM THINKLab Research Zurich will show how cognitive computing and the Watson Health Cloud will affect the way health practitioners will work in the future.
* Kelly, John E. and Steve Hamm. Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing. New York. Columbia University Press, 2013.