Watson on the Move: Cognea

May 20, 2014

I wanted to associate Cognos with Cognea. Two different things. IBM’s Watson unit, according to “IBM Watson Acquires Artificial Intelligence Startup Cognea,” is beefing up its artificial intelligence capabilities. Facebook, Google, and other outfits are embracing the dreams of artificial intelligence like it is 1981 when Marvin Weinberger was giving talks about AI’s revolutionizing information processing. I have lost track of Marvin, although I recall his impassioned polemics, 30 years after hearing him lecture. Unfortunately I remain skeptical about “artificial intelligence” because Watson, as I understood the pitch after Jeopardy, was already super smart. I suppose Cognea can add some marketing credibility to Watson. That system is curing disease and performing wonders for the insurance industry, if I embrace the IBM public relations’ flow.

In my lectures about the Big O problem, I point out that many of today’s smartest systems (for example, Search2, to name one) implements clever methods to make well known numerical recipes run like a teenager who just gulped three cans of Jolt Cola followed by a Red Bull energy drink.

The reality is that there are more sophisticated mathematical tools available. The problem is that the systems available cannot exploit these algorithmic methods. I am pretty confident that Cognea tells a great story. I am even more confident that IBM will do the “Vivisimo” thing with whatever technology Cognea actually has. Without a concrete demo, benchmarks, and independent evaluations, I will remain skeptical about “a cognitive computing and conversational artificial intelligence platform.”

I am far more interested in the Cybertap technology that IBM acquired and seems to  be keeping under wraps. Cybertap works. Artificial intelligence, well, it depends on how one defines “artificial” and “intelligence” doesn’t it?

Stephen E Arnold, May 20, 2014

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