My Top Takeaways from IBM World of Watson Day 2

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IBM World of Watson has been a marvelous whirlwind of learning, announcements, and insights. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning so many different ways to manage data and analytics and wanted to share my top takeaways from day 2 of the event.

Watson Can’t Create Large Scale Works… Yet

I learned the answer to one of the questions I had about Watson’s ability to create. Watson can create small-scale works; I created a piece of music based on just a few notes at one of the demo booths. It cannot yet create large-scale works; It will not write your great American novel unassisted today.

Having watched its cognitive capabilities, I have no doubt that day will come sooner than we think, but that day is not today. For now, Watson’s ability to create cognitively is limited to smaller works, plus assessing, analyzing, and improving existing works.

Watson Data Platform

At the opening keynote, IBM announced the launch of the Watson Data Platform. This platform appears to be an evolution of its Data Science Experience test environment, and unifies Watson Analytics, the Data Science Experience beta, and the Bluemix development environment.

For marketers and citizen analysts, the new Watson Data Platform appears to have great promise for increasing collaboration and sharing best practices. Imagine developing an analysis method for, say, social media marketing in Watson Analytics. Today, you can share results, but there’s no way for you to give your analytics framework to a coworker.

In the new data platform, it appears you should be able to give your coworker the underlying code and framework for them to build their own analysis by adapting yours– Aall without writing actual code.

Visual Recognition API

I had the opportunity to learn more about how Watson sees at its visual recognition API booth. Visual recognition is an undervalued part of Watson’s cognitive capabilities. We as markers tend to think only in text, partly because we have been trained to think in text by search engine optimization. As a result, we don’t often think about how to visually recognize content at scale.

Watson’s visual recognition skills give marketers an enormous advantage, an ability to process large amounts of visual data. Have you ever faced a situation where you needed to process a huge number of photos? Have you ever worked on Instagram? Summarizing the results of that campaign traditionally has been time-consuming and labor-intensive. With Watson’s visual recognition capabilities, we could significantly reduce that time, preserve the accuracy, and provide accurate reporting. I look forward to developing more tools using the visual recognition API.

Thomas Friedman Keynote

One of the other highlights of the day was watching noted New York Times author Tom Friedman talk about his new book, Thank You For Being Late. While he covered many different points, what are the most interesting takeaways was that the chaos we are seeing in our political system is not surprising. Just as education has been disrupted in the information and cognitive age, so too we are seeing politics be disrupted.

Our political system heralds from the agricultural age. It did not work especially well with the industrial age, but we adapted, to a degree. In the information age, and then the cognitive, artificial intelligence age, it is clear that our political system has no idea how to make optimal decisions with large amounts of data. Regardless of your political perspective, there is near universal agreement that the system we have does not do as good a job as it could do.

One looming question we must address is how much decision-making control we give to machines and artificial intelligence; on the one hand, many people are uncomfortable with the idea that machines could partially govern us. On the other hand, I’m fairly certain machines, given unbiased inputs and clean data, could do a far better job of governing than our current elected officials.

One of my favorite quotes from a political movie was an elected representative saying, “Son, you know we don’t read most of the legislation we pass.” AIs like Watson could at least read the legislation before telling us whether to vote on it or not based on our political viewpoint.

Day 3 Ahead

I am eager for day 3 of the World of Watson. I’ll be speaking about the rise of the citizen analyst, and how this nascent trend could empower companies, governments, and our lives.


IBM has paid for me to attend World of Watson and provide unbiased coverage of the event. They have not provided content for me to publish, but ask that I do publish during the event on blogs and social media in exchange for free admission and travel expenses.

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