From Her to Watson, and What's Next?

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9 October 2014
Juan Mazzini
Her is a 2013 American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who develops a relationship with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an intelligent computer operating system personified through a female voice. Jonze conceived the idea in the early 2000s after reading an article about Cleverbot, a web application that uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to have conversations with humans. I spent an entire day with Watson last Tuesday along with my colleague Dan Latimore (should read his blog about it! http://bankingblog.celent.com/2014/10/08/spending-a-day-with-ibms-watson/) and I could not avoid the resemblance, though IBM's Watson is much more focused on the business side of the machine/human interaction and collaboration. Watson is a learning system that scales human expertise by extending our abilities to perceive, reason, and relate:
  • Perceiving: Watson understands the world as we do; it interprets sensory input beyond traditional data. Understands natural language; reads manuals, social data, blogs, consumer reviews, etc.
  • Reasoning: Watson thinks through complex problems; it deepens our analysis and inspires creativity. Makes inferences, evaluates pros and cons, and finds relationships between terms and concepts
  • Relating: Watson understands how we communicate, and personalizes its interactions with each of us. Responds in natural language, personalizes the interaction and provides reasons
  • Learning: Watson learns from every interaction, scaling our ability to build experience. Trains with experts and improves with feedback.
Imagine that you can take your best employee, your best agent, your best underwriter, your best adviser, your best risk manager and teach Watson, so it could be then supporting any other employee, business partner or even a customer, 24/7 across your organization. It is the most closer to cloning I have seen lately, without the moral dilemmas. What if, based in its huge computing capacity and the ability to crunch and interpret TB of data in a very short time-frame it could provide you with more hypothesis and evidence than any human being you can hire? Imagine how accuracy and timeliness could save lives, assess risks better, lower your costs, provide a better understanding of what is going on, even under different circumstances. Watson's aim is to become the best adviser to your employees, customers and partners while doing their job by leveraging the power and strength of search, analytic and cognitive capabilities. There is a real opportunity here to:
  • Amplify human cognitive strengths
  • Enable a deeper level of reasoning
  • Make decision trade-offs with higher levels of confidence
  • Democratize experience and knowledge within your organization and value chain
Financial institutions around the world are already working with IBM to make Watson smarter, covering more use cases and more languages. IBM has already made available and continues to work on content and APIs business ready on the cloud to make it easier for its ecosystem and clients to embed Watson services in their applications. IBM is already working on having Watson available for Japanese, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese natural language interaction, and we should be hearing soon some news regarding the 1st Watson Client Experience Center in Latin America, replicating the one IBM has just inaugurated in New York's Silicon Alley. IBM plans to open these centers in Melbourne, Sao Paulo, Dublin, London and Singapore. IBM's Watson has already come up with a book of recipes and while I think it is true that the best way to a man's heart is through his stomach, I don't expect to fall in love with an avatar powered by Watson as in Jonze's Her (I am happily married, thank you). I would like though to see soon how it helps me decide what are the best investments given my risk aversion profile or which is the best type of insurance (and coverages) I need given my needs and concerns. I would certainly love to see how underwriting capabilities improve and processes become more accurate and efficient, hopefully expecting better results for me, for the financial services institutions and why not expect to see some savings passed along to consumers? Today Watson is here; what's next? IMG_1080IMG_1046

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