Since I was a young girl studying computer science and engineering in India, I’ve always been interested in exploring how science and technology can help solve real-world problems. In my IBM Research career that spans 20 years and counting, I’ve indulged my passion for problem-solving by building technologies that help businesses and organizations of all shapes and sizes overcome their challenges.
I try to instill this fascination for problem-solving in my 10-year-old daughter, who recently attended a robotics summer camp. When she came home frustrated from the camp one day, she asked me, “Why should I care about artificial intelligence? What does A.I. have to do with me?”
As I continue my journey at IBM in the A.I. field, what I wish for my daughter — and everyone — to understand is the transformative power of A.I. systems to assist people with addressing real-world challenges in both our professional and personal lives.
Cognitive technology is becoming increasingly embedded in our daily lives, from digital assistants to pharmaceutical discovery and even driverless cars. At its core, it’s enabling us to better understand and give purpose to a world saturated with massive amounts of data. We are now at the beginning of a new era of collaboration between man and machine, and the power of cognitive computing will be the one thing that propels humans to make use of this abundance of information.
IBM has been researching, developing, and investing in A.I. technology for more than 50 years to solve business problems. As the field of artificial intelligence advances, IBM’s approach to A.I. is to create systems that provide augmented — rather than artificial — intelligence. When comparing the two, the critical difference is that augmented intelligence is focused on building systems that enhance and scale human expertise rather than attempting to replicate human intelligence. Augmented intelligence aims to enable businesses to build practical A.I. applications that assist people with well-defined tasks and help them make more informed decisions.
Since joining IBM Research in 1995, I’ve been involved in a number of projects with fascinating challenges that paved the way for the work I am doing today. One of my most memorable and defining projects was when I studied the factors that led to the most successful deals for an IBM sales team. The results revealed this fact: What would make or break a deal were actually the qualitative traits of the decision-makers, the characteristics of IBM’s salespeople, the traits of their clients, and their communication styles, motivations and values. The better we understood people’s emotions and personalities, the higher the likelihood of a successful deal. I realized at this point the unique human ability for emotional intelligence was also a central ingredient for the future of cognitive computing.
For years, people have had to learn how to communicate effectively with machines — now machines are learning how to better communicate with humans. We are seeing a lot of enthusiasm from our developers to apply these services to communication challenges in settings like customer service, health assistance telephone hotlines, digital marketing, and even dating apps.
For example, Connectidy, a cognitive dating app, uses the Tone Analyzer API to help users better understand how their messages might come across to prospective dating matches. Another Watson developer partner, Influential, embedded the Personality Insights API into its platform to help customers like Kia identify highly targeted social media influencer brand advocates. For Kia’s 2016 Super Bowl campaign, Influential’s use of Watson technology helped identify influencers based on the personality traits that matched the brand’s core values, such as “openness to change.”
These are exciting times, where building A.I.-based systems is easier than ever before due to several factors. Computing power has become more accessible and affordable. In addition, Watson as an open platform environment makes the implementation of comprehensive API services and complex algorithms available to everyone for trial and use.
More than ever, I’m motivated to help shape a world where my daughter can seamlessly interact side-by-side with technology and A.I. systems that will make her life better. We are moving into an era of computing where systems can understand the world in the way that humans do: through senses, learning, and experience. As we work together with cognitive technology, humans can enhance their problem-solving abilities while continuing to communicate compassionately and naturally in an increasingly digital world.