Enter the Cognitive Age | By Konrad Gulla

01. October 2019

The amount of data that accumulates in companies is growing all the time. As a result, the handling of knowledge and decisions will change fundamentally: self-thinking and self-acting algorithms will identify relevant information and prepare knowledge for us. Digital transformation can thus also be described as an entry into the cognitive age.

Electrification, at the beginning of the 20th century, fundamentally changed the world. New automation possibilities revolutionized the economy and society. Such a drastic change is currently taking place again: The Digital Transformation. Its goal is to make all areas of work and private life predictable with self-thinking and self-acting algorithms. This "Cognification" poses significant challenges to society, companies, and individuals, but at the same time offers immense opportunities. Just as 100 years ago entrepreneurs were concerned with the use of electricity to improve products and automate work processes, today we should ask ourselves which products or services can be equipped with cognitive capabilities.

Embrace the Change

Why wasn't the iPod a Sony product? Because Apple recognized a digital transformation in the music market, and they embraced it. This openness to change is one of the reasons why Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world today.

The same applies to Netflix and Blockbuster. Netflix has understood and driven digital transformation in the entertainment market rather than opposing change. Today, Netflix not only provides its 150 million paying customers with fast on-demand access to films and TV shows, but also produces and markets its own films and shows

Masses of data - from problem to advantage

Today, 47% of all companies see data growth as their greatest challenge. Up to 30 percent of working time is lost because employees cannot find existing knowledge and therefore recreate it. Given the mass of servers, services, and devices in use, this is not surprising.

The market research company IDC predicts that the data mountain will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. Stored on BlueRays, this results in a stack that reaches 23 times to the moon. Effective handling of these quantities of information cannot be achieved by new manual processes, but only by "Cognification" - which at the same time will make the mass of data the most significant competitive advantage for companies.

If we can believe Ray Kurzweil, one of the most important inventors and thought leaders of our time with a prediction accuracy of 86%, then in the year 2030

  • Thousand-dollar PCs will be more than 1,000 times more powerful than the human brain.
  • Smart wearables are being replaced by permanent or replaceable implants, thus eliminating the boundaries between analog and digital reality.
  • The majority of communication will take place between people and machines, not between people and people.
  • We discuss the rights of robots and digital intelligence in our societies.
  • Computers learn without human help and create new knowledge. Some computers connected to the internet digest all public information, scientific discovery, books and movies, and every public statement of people.

The handling of knowledge and decisions will change fundamentally in the next ten years through Cognitive Knowledge Discovery platforms. Based on our knowledge, interests, and activities, these smart platforms will automatically identify relevant information and process knowledge for us.

Personal Digital Intelligence that knows our interests, the level of our expertise, and our professional network will continuously compare all of this with publicly available, in-house, and paid knowledge sources to help us ask better questions, understand relationships faster, and make more informed decisions.

Augmented reality applications will enable employees to interact with information at any time and merge our analog world with the digital world in such a way that the data underlying the knowledge platforms will play a key role in determining business success or failure.

Measuring, analyzing, understanding, and predicting

As a result, companies need to take action today to measure, analyze and understand all their data in the future. This applies to data from existing data sources and also to data that cannot be collected today or can only be collected in a cumbersome manner.

This data is the basis for algorithms to uncover new patterns and extract knowledge invisible to us. One example is an algorithm developed by Google that has been trained to identify certain eye diseases. This works by taking photos of the back of the eye through the pupil (retinal fundus images). For more than 100 years, these images have been used to detect eye diseases. Deep learning models can now also use these retinal images to detect a patient's age, sex, smoking status, and systolic blood pressure. You can calculate cardiovascular risk factors and predict the risk of heart problems for the next five years. Trained doctors do not recognize this knowledge, although they are present in the pictures. The question arises: "What knowledge do we not see, although it is in our data?"

In only a few decades, the electrification at the beginning of the 20th century led to the computerization of our society which in turn gave rise to the information age. One can only guess where cognification will lead us in the coming decades. However, what is certain is that well-prepared and accessible data will be the basis.

The Autor

Konrad Gulla is Founder and Chief Visionary of Keeeb Inc. When he is not researching and developing new solutions transforming the way we discover, collect, create, and share knowledge, he deals with issues around the future of the global climate, education in the cognitive age, and how new technologies can bring our global society closer together and drive improvements for all.

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