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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Watson and AI confront the Internet of Things

©Mark Ollig

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’” said the Serpent to Eve.

This quote is from George Bernard Shaw’s 1921 book “Back to Methuselah,” where his sequence of plays takes us through the past, present, and future.

I begin with this quote because it expresses for me the wonderment of technology’s next stage of evolution.

Have you heard about the AI (Artificial Intelligence) computational software probabilistic program which rewrites its own code in order to improve its efficiency and cognitive perception?

This probabilistic AI programming is based on the Approximate Bayesian computation method, which has its roots in 18th century English theologian and mathematician, Thomas Bayes.

He is credited as being the first person to use “probability” as a method for calculation.

Bayes’ conclusions were recorded in “Essay Towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances,” in 1763, two years after his death.

Probabilistic programming is being used by AI programs to aid in its observing the likelihood or probability of an event happening.

It uses probability as a construct to write or rewrite its own algorithmic code to improve the software programs it runs.

Yours truly writes code using an older HP keyboard typing lines at a time; although I sometimes get inspired to create and run an automated script file.

Probabilistic programming will accelerate machine-learning techniques used by AI system platforms, smart devices, and the unique AI programs controlling the data being gleaned from billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices; which, of course, are connected to the Internet.

Some of my readers may recall a column I wrote six years ago about IBM’s cognitive computer called Watson.

Back then, Watson had become famous for demonstrating its computing intelligence on the television game show “Jeopardy!”

IBM is creating a cognitive computer brain using neurosynaptic computing chips.

This computer brain will be able to reprogram itself based upon interactions within its surroundings and past learning experiences.

IBM recently launched its global Watson cognitive computing and Internet of Things technologies headquarters in Munich, Germany.

This building is staffed with 1,000 IBM employees, customer and IBM laboratories called “collaboratories,” and areas named “Client Experience Zones.”

Today, the Watson computing IoT platform boasts providing operating analytical software from within the internet cloud for defining, managing, collecting, analyzing, and responding to data statistics from a variety of IoT devices.

IBM also released interesting information about the future of IoT.

In five years, they predict there will be over 20 billion internet-connected IoT devices, creating an economic value of over $14 trillion.

Currently, over 6,000 customers and partners are working with the IBM Watson IoT platform.

Soon, we will be entering a future whereby AI programs and cognitive computing systems will independently control and improve not only their own programming, but that of the IoT devices they connect with.

Regarding computer artificial intelligence, “My hope is when this ground-breaking technology finally comes to fruition, it will be used wisely, and to everyone’s benefit,” yours truly wrote in 2011.

On the other hand, there’s always the possibility things could go south – and we find ourselves living in Isaac Asimov’s robotically-controlled future.

“Neurosynaptic-core, digital silicon-chip, cognitive computers and robots could eventually develop to the point of self-awareness, take over the planet, and, after finding us humans inferior, decide it would be in their best interest to reprogram our brains in order to be of better service to them,” I prognosticated in 2011.

Of course, this unlikely prediction was just a worst-case scenario on my part.

It all depends on one’s perspective.

But remember; we humans are a clever lot, and I’m sure the “overseeing powers that be” are embedding safeguards into these cognitive AI system platforms – just in case a group of them gang-up and try to take over the planet.

One suggestion: Have an unalterable, undeletable, “hard- wired” source code rooted in all future AI robotic programs incorporating Asimov’s “The Three Laws of Robotics.”

I also suggest the software coders creating these cognitive computers and AI self-learning programs, be required to watch the original “Star Trek” episode “The Ultimate Computer,” and learn what could happen when humans relinquish authority and put a computer in charge of everything.

But I digress with a bit of a wry smile.

“An Essay Towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances,” by Thomas Bayes, can be read here:

The Project Gutenberg organization archives 54,500 readable eBooks at no cost; one of them is “Back to Methuselah.” Read it here:

The IBM website for Watson IoT is:

If managed wisely, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence platforms have the potential to provide extraordinary benefits for our society and the planet.

Let’s keep generating new ideas on how technology can assist and enrich everyone’s lives by asking the question; “Why not?”

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

(Above image used with permission via paid license)