Self-driving cars and fridges that tell you that you are out of milk might once have been the realm of science fiction are now firmly science fact. Real advances are now being made in cognitive systems and it’s time for companies and society to take note and be ready for the change.

Data digitization

Sensing and interpreting unstructured data is the new normal for cognitive systems driving the next decade. While the digitization of data is happening at an extraordinary pace these days (between 2013 and 2020, digitized data is set to increase ten-fold according to an IDC report) a mere 20 percent of that is structured – the type from which meaningful conclusions can be drawn. This is set to change as cognitive systems ensure that the remaining 80 percent can now be drilled down and mined to create a vast array of new business possibilities.

Nevertheless, data mining by itself has no value unless the data can be interpreted and understood by the same cognitive system. As with any thinking system, there is also the need to connect it to actions as is clearly the case with driverless vehicles – essentially AI on wheels. The driverless vehicle is nevertheless proof of concept of a thinking system that can sense and act to perform its principle task, despite the vast array of variables.

Finally, cognitive systems as their name implies, do not stop at thought and action, they also continuously refine their knowledge and learn from experience. It’s no secret that companies like Google are willing to invest 500 million USD to acquire companies like DeepMind Technologies Limited to advance that most human quality of AI – learning.

All these facts do not, however, make a properly functioning cognitive system – no matter how much sophisticated technology is in a cognitive system and how well it can sense, think, act and learn, it will not be useful without sensing and acting on the right data and capturing it in a coherent fashion. For a driverless car to match the performance of even an average driver in traffic requires enormous capacity and coordination. Data security becomes even more important at the point when autonomous vehicles and other machines operate in the same space as humans.

Job creation

Cognitive systems that mesh with the working fabric of life, from traffic on the roads to the regulation of cities, manufacture and more must be immune from cyber-attack. The consequences of less-than 100 percent data security are too serious to contemplate.  Cognitive systems must also introduced into the working world intelligently for the greatest benefit to all.

Being able to make the greatest use of new technologies is not always a race towards profit but rather, a more holistic approach.

Connected to that, one of the biggest fears on a societal level is that cognitive systems will steal jobs that will never be replaced. According to a major TCS study of 800 companies getting the greatest value from the use of cognitive systems in terms of revenue and cost improvements, those that can envision the technology both automating more jobs but also creating new ones are coming out on top.

This is the challenge for the future: being able to make the greatest use of new technologies is not always a race towards profit but rather, a more holistic approach. A 2015 Deloitte study found that over the past 144 years, new technologies have created more jobs than they have destroyed. We must work towards a future where this trend continues allowing the manual workers of the present become the creators and curators of knowledge of the future.

If you enjoyed reading this story, may I invite you to more on the subject and other compelling technological matters in the latest version of Perspectives, the TCS produced magazine.