Hector Ruiz: The Evolution of Cognitive Computing

source: bigthink 2013-07-02  
At some point a child might touch a hot plate and his mother will say the word "hot." That word is then programmed in the child's brain. When someone says, "hot," the child knows to be careful. Eventually, when the child has accumulated enough knowledge he will start to ask the question "why?"
Can computers learn the same way a children learns?
We are getting to that point, explains Hector Ruiz, the former chariman and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices and the author of "Slingshot: AMD's Fight to Free an Industry from the Ruthless Grip of Intel." (http://goo.gl/s8cCR) Ruiz tells Big Think that we are starting to see evidence today that computers can "get to a point where actually they begin to query back and say 'I need more information. Give me more information. Tell me about this.'"
Ruiz points to experiments going on right now in health care, oil exploration and financial transactions that are beginning "to tap the power of cognitive computing."

Transcript -- You know in the history of our industry there have been some real major events that transformed the industry and had a huge impact in our lives. The invention of the integrated circuit really opened up a huge number of opportunities to do things that were unimaginable back then. Then the creation of the personal computer, the PC, that was a huge impact on our lives. Not only in our own personal lives but in the way industry conducted itself in how to use computers to do the things that were important to them. Then the third thing was the introduction, of course, of the Internet. I mean that Internet with PCs and the integrated circuit you can see how all that is building and changing the world.

I believe that the next step is gonna be what's called cognitive computing. Because technology has changed so much that we have now so much power in our computing capability and so much memory that we can store that we're able, for the first time, to actually create products that begin to mimic how a brain works.

And what that means is that the product can actually -- on a very narrow, particularly expertise, could be as narrow as, let's say, weather forecasting for example -- something very narrow. That the product begins to learn as it is used and in a way that means it has some cognitive capability. So the more you use it, the better it becomes at a particular function. To the point where it actually gets to a point where it begins to actually ask questions of you. Think of it as a child. You know, when a child is born their brain is empty. It begins to get filled with stuff, hopefully mostly good. And there comes a point in time when the child touches a hot plate and the mother says, "Hot." Then the child knows from then on every time somebody says "hot" he better be careful because now it's programmed in his brain and he's learning. He continues to learn.

But there comes that time in the child's life that all of us that have been parents either dread or look forward to is when the child starts asking why. When you do something, you say "why, why, why." And what the child's doing is learning. He now has enough cognitive capability to understand enough of what's going on but not enough so he'll ask why. Well, in the same way these circuits get to a point where actually they begin to query back and say I need more information. Give me more information. Tell me about this. And there are some experiments going on today in health care, in oil exploration, in financial transactions where they actually begin to tap the power of cognitive computing. And I believe that when that happens we're gonna enter an era that's unimaginable today.

And in some ways it's kind of exciting to think of the fact that we get surrounded by intelligence that helps us make our lives better. But it's also somewhat frightening in the fact that you're now surrounded by intelligence that begins to think they know more than you do. But we're moving in that direction. I see it happening. I think we're about ten years away from that being a real commercial reality.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd