Summary:

AlchemyAPI CEO Elliot Turner and IBM Watson sales chief Stephen Gold took to the stage at Structure Data 2014 on Thursday to discuss the implications of cognitive computing’s rise.

Elliot Turner — CEO, AlchemyAPI; Stephen Gold, Watson Solutions, IBM Software Group. Structure Data 2014

As cognitive computing or artificial intelligence grows in capability, what skills should humans acquire? According to AlchemyAPI CEO Elliot Turner, we will need to shift our educational focus away from the kind of stuff that computers can do better.

Speaking at Gigaom’s Structure Data 2014 show in New York alongside Stephen Gold, the head of sales for IBM’s Watson program, Turner said there was “still a lot of runway to go” before we fleshies find ourselves struggling to find purpose. “While systems coming online today are amazing…you can still have a person read a document better than a machine can today,” he said.

“We’ve just got to focus on the things that make us special and move away from this historical view of rote memorization, because that’s not going to be as useful a skill,” Turner said.

Indeed, natural language recognition is starting to evolve to the point where cognitive computing systems such as Watson can take information and understand it in a learning sense.

Gold said this would have great application in fields such as medicine. He described a near future in which physicians would have artificial intelligence-based assistants that can recognize the applicability of the outcome of some obscure trial and regurgitate it as needed.

This may seem quasi-magical now, but as Turner pointed out, we’re pretty good at taking huge leaps in cognitive computing for granted once we’ve had them around for a bit: “As soon as these technologies come online and are integrated with our daily lives, we stop thinking of them that way… ‘Oh, it’s speech recognition.'”

Photo courtesy Jakub Mosur.

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