Picked up from the podium

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Thought partners

Away from packaging and back to research, Dave Ferrucci, now CEO of Elemental Cognition, gave a thoughtful presentation on fundamental strategies for building cognitive systems. Ferrucci focused on the challenges of learning to work with machines not just as calculators but as thought partners. He makes the point that we are still a long way from being able to carry out thoughtful dialogues with a computer. Alexa, Siri, Cortana (pick your favorite bot) converse with us by understanding (or not understanding) the specific words that we speak. But unlike conversing with another human, the machines only understand the terms—they cannot capture or understand the full context that we bring to the dialog. Ferrucci's team is now focusing on the issues of training computers to learn in the same way people do—emphasizing context, questions and connections instead of language models per se.

Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics, addressed the issue of making AI practical for enterprises today in the midst of the wave of hype around the technologies. As a first question, how do you know when you have an AI problem? Perhaps an AI solution is not necessary. How do you find the problems that are a fit for AI-based approaches? And when you have found them, are you prepared to start learning? Because there will be surprises along the way.

The O’Reilly conference raised questions, presented reasoned opinions and pointed the way to more questions. To experience more of such insightful content, mark your calendar for Dec. 13, 2017, when the Cognitive Computing Consortium will be presenting its annual conference at AI World in Boston.


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