Here in 2017, I have a problem that I didn’t have growing up in the suburbs in the 1960s, nor did it bother me in college in the 1970s, or even when I moved to New York City to seek my destiny in the 1980s. In fact, I couldn’t even conceive of this problem back then. No one could.
The seeds were sown in 1994, when I connected my first personal computer – with its video monitor the size of a small tool shed – to the dial-up service for Internet. I vividly recall pressing the button to connect to AOL, and it would boop boop boop as the number dialed, then a faint roar as the 14,400 baud modem sent out its signal and, after a few more squiggly sounds, “You’ve got mail.” It was exciting! We had conquered space and time. I could send a message over thousands of miles in real time! (Well, almost; an attachment would take 45 minutes to download!)
If I have to pinpoint exactly when it started, officially, the year was 1996.
That was when AOL opened its chat rooms for $20 bucks a month unlimited usage. There were chat rooms on any topic: video games, movies, sports teams, astronomy, punk bands, even Shakespeare! You could engage with people all over the world in a conversational free for all. This was something new!
I spent hours meeting people on-line, and later in person at special meet-ups. “Oh, you’re SirToby1067? I loved your take on anti-semitism in ‘Merchant of Venice.’” (Yes, I belonged to a Shakespeare chat room).
But that’s when it started.
Suddenly, I had a choice: Should I finish my project for work or get lost in a chat room, sharing my passion for the band ‘Television’ with 23 strangers? 10 years later, Facebook arrived, along with every other social network, blasting out a fire hose of news, sports, gossip, political commentary, music parodies, funny kittens, talking babies, trolling haters, and hating trollers. And when it migrated to mobile devices a few years later, all was lost. There isn’t a moment in the day, when I’m not able to dive into a 3D spinning vortex of information.
But here’s the problem: it’s impossible to focus. Attention deficit disorder is at epidemic levels. Author, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, has pioneered the use of Google searches to get new insights into the human psyche. He reports that searches for “panic attacks” have doubled in the past 8 years. It is no coincidence.
There is more information than we can handle. Our analog minds don’t have tools to curate, prioritize, and view in a way that provides understanding and clarity. Instead, it is just overwhelming.
However, a solution is emerging that can help us focus. It’s called Cognitive Computing, a new type of artificial intelligence that uses tools like text analytics and natural language processing to filter out noise and focus only on what’s important. IBM has customers using this today in its capture solutions to understand what’s on a document at the same moment that it captures the information. Medical and technical experts use cognitive tools with case management to comb through millions of scientific and medical journals to help them make better decisions, and car manufacturers are using it to monitor the safety and reliability of their vehicles.
When cognitive solutions are applied to content, suddenly the focus problem isn’t such a problem after all. It is proving to be very effective in the workplace, helping case workers, document capture experts, and decision makers isolate what’s important. I’ll be presenting Cognitive Content in a session at Document Strategy Forum 2017 in Chicago May 1-3. Don’t forget to stop by the IBM Booth, which is#406, to learn what Cognitive Solutions are all about. Now all I need to do is apply Cognitive Computing to my SmartPhone and I’ll be able to focus again.
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