If IBM Watson (AI) is so smart, why isn’t Watson able tell IBM how to make billions dollars?

“If IBM Watson (AI) is so smart, why isn’t Watson able to tell IBM how to make billions dollars? Can’t you just ask Watson how to make more money?” It was an earnest question from a skeptical client. We all want an oracle we can ask.

I answered “IBM Watson can’t just know how to make money. It has to be taught first by humans. A person must teach Watson the knowledge and then Watson can expand on it.” The simple answer is IBM Watson is similar to all Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. It is just a tool and not an all-seeing, all-knowing oracle. Buying a chef’s knife does not make me a chef. The old saying is “a fool with a tool is still a fool.” Watson, or any AI, can’t just imagine ideas, create new solutions, or create new solutions. While it isn’t an oracle, it is highly useful tool.

The real purpose of this tool labeled as Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Intelligence, or Assistive Intelligence is to provide computers with more human like interactions and understanding. Reading, writing, speaking, listening, seeing, and feeling are very human experiences. We define our world this way via our senses and sense of self being. At IBM, we have Watson focus more on the cognitive (thinking and feeling like a human) and being more supportive via assistive intelligence. The cognitive capability provides the computer a better and more natural way to move, communicate, interact, and learn in our human focused world.

A good example is Watson Cancer Diagnostics. It first was taught how to diagnose and treat cancer. The cognitive capabilities allowed it to speak, listen, write, and read both questions and answers. I even learned to read radiographs (visual). That gave the solution a baseline capability. Now it is moving onward by reading printed journals. We as humans think of it as nothing to extract information out of reading a book, but this is unstructured data which only a few years ago, computers couldn’t understand. Now with Watson, they can. Today Watson Cancer Diagnostics can work with doctors and suggest treatments, but ultimately, we still rely on the doctor to make the final diagnosis and treatment.

Water is the universal solvent. Humans are the universal problem solver. Computers are wonderful tools to enable humans. By adding cognitive capabilities, computers become even better and easier to use tools to assist us in shaping our world and hopefully for better.

 

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Wish I was going to Sapphire 2016

Since 2005, SAP Sapphire meant panicking for 6+ weeks of April and half of May. Since I’m no longer in the IBM SAP Practice Global CTO, I won’t be there. I’m still deeply involved and interested in IBM‘s efforts in the SAP world. It impacts most of my clients and I spend a lot of time on the interfacing of SAP software to many of IBM’s latest capabilities like Bluemix and Watson and most recently in developing an FDA compliant cloud for SAP. SAP is still on my mind, still important, and I wish I could go to Sapphire to see my friends who have become like family over the decade.

The focus is on Digital Transformation for all IBM’s SAP Practice. It aligns perfectly with IBM’s focus on Cloud, Cognitive, and Industries. Take some of your valuable time to speak with the IBM experts in booth #104 to understand how the unique partnership between IBM and SAP on Digital Transformation can benefit you and your company.

You can go beyond just discussing Digital Transformation, you can touch it. You can touch it in the IBM Booth #104. Gagan Reen, who leads the LSS, and his team will be launching Digital Transformation Cognitive Solutions as part of the IBM and SAP Digital Transformation initiative.

Please let me know how Sapphire goes this year. What is new? What is pure hype and what is real? Have a great show and I will remain calm all of May, but I will miss of you, my extended work family, at Sapphire.

 

Why I believe IBM will succeed

I believe IBM will succeed even in this next era of rapid innovation. There is no doubt IBM is founded on innovation. Whether you measure it by 23 years of leading in number of patents or by sheer number of innovations found in its history (DRAM, Hard drives, Tabulation Machines, System 360, major innovation around relational datbases, etc.), IBM is innovative.

I think the question is not “can IBM innovate”, but can IBM innovate with enough speed and follow through. It is tough for any large company to move fast with heirarchies, communities, and sheer mass. It can be done.

One key is having a clear vision. IBM’s vision is Cloud, Cognitive, and Industries. Cloud in all it’s forms including IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Recent announcements like putting IBM Box, IBM’s cloud for file sharing, on Amazon shows a willingness to follow requirements of the market. Clients are saying no one cloud solution, even IBM’s cloud, is enough. Speed and diversity are as important as cost, or more.

Cognitive is the peak of IBM’s data strategy. Beneath is everything from ETL to IoT to cloud based integration. Getting to Watson is rarely a first step for most clients. Rather we find we need to do a lot of data hygene just to be ready for standard analytics. Eventually, they do get to Watson and Cognitive services. It is a journey.

I really find Watson on Bluemix especially interesting. IBM is offering access in nibble size chunks access to Watson via standard APIs. It is an amazing shift to see IBM offering the power of its flagship product for pennies. It is a new model for IBM. IBM has always ruled in the realm of big projects with high margins. To take on the tiny, an API at a time and a penney at a time, is huge change in business model for IBM. You can check out the services, via RESTfull API’s, on the developer cloud and for modest use it is even FREEhttp://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/developercloud/services-catalog.html

Under the banner of Cognitive is IoT. The ability to interact and understand our world via the digital world seems like a SciFi dream. The possibilities are endless. We see capabilities like controling our environment just by thinking about it. I love the story about the IBMer who is using his mind to control a Sphero toy. I confess, I want one. https://developer.ibm.com/bluemix/2015/12/18/the-force-bb8-emotiv-insight-bluemix/  or Youtube (~3 mins).

Industries runs through everthing at IBM. IBM’s entire organization is organized by Sector (Industrial, Distribution, Financial, etc.) and below that into Industries. Every go to market effort is passed through an industry focus and a lot of the investment in new ideas is based on the question of “what does this industry require.” You can even filter our Institute for Business Value by Industries to find unique value for your business. Watson even has its own Watson Healthcare division – another focus on an industry.

In the fast moving world of IT innovation, being innovative last year is not going to save you; however, IBM has a long history of remaining an innovation leader. We working to see how we can leverage all IBMers’ great minds.  I’m optomistic as we are now working on innovations for rapid innovation at cloud speed and beyond. Cloud, Cognitive, and Industries is great springboard into our future.