Decoding the brain: aiding developers with Watson
Anamita Guha grew up surrounded by coders and IPOs in the way other kids’ childhoods were filled with trips to the mall or little league. Growing up in San Francisco, where both her parents helped build the Valley we know today, Anamita developed, almost intrinsically, an understanding of the power technology has to connect people and change the world.
And by an early age –we’re talking four years old –Anamita was up and running on her own computer. At nine, she started designing websites as a side-hustle. Out of this early digital relationship and the exposure she received to a diversity of people and ideas in Silicon Valley, Anamita became increasingly intrigued by people –and how they process information, become motivated by their beliefs and ultimately make decisions.
Now at IBM Watson, Anamita has combined her aptitude for technology —along with her passion for understanding the human mind —to create the tools developers rely on to change the world with Watson. We chat with her about her unique background, path in the Valley and how she sees AI changing the world, one decision at a time.
How did you become interested in the human mind, and ultimately AI?
Technology has always fascinated me, but not for what it does –instead, for what it inspires us to do. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I learned at a pretty early age that just by giving people better access to information, it significantly opens our perspective and decision-making capabilities. This process of information to output was so fascinating to me that I actually chose a cognitive science major. I wanted to know: how does the brain work? How do we think about things? And, as interesting as those classes were, I quickly found that what I was really after was a better understanding of human cognition. So, in college, I started shifting my focus to classes in AI, machine learning and computational models of the mind.
What I learned was that these technologies, which were new and growing rapidly at the time, had the potential to extend the possibilities of what humans are capable of –in a way like we’ve never seen before. To me, AI was the next revolution of information. Much like the dot-com era expanded our access to information, and each other –AI will amplify this even further and extend human possibilities in revolutionary new ways. I just kept thinking how exciting it would to be to layer the human brain’s ability to process information, instinct and insight with the capabilities of an AI system. Combined, it’s the ultimate decision-making machine–doctors, lawyers, my barista even –will have better access to more complete and broader information, giving us the ability to make decisions with more confidence, and even greater outcomes.
What’s one example of when you saw the potential AI has to redefine human cognition?
In June 2017, I spearheaded a really exciting a side project at IBM. We launched something called the Bot Asset Exchange, which is a community driven hub for enterprise bot developers to share and build bots powered by IBM Watson Assistant. Since this was a side project, we needed to recruit various people within IBM –it became almost like a scavenger hunt in terms of putting all of the pieces together, but the outcome was hugely impactful.
The platform launched with more than 120 conversational interfaces in various categories and was easy to learn. This tool now provides more ways for developers to communicate directly with one another, so they can discuss bots they are working on and ones that might be added soon. The Bot Asset Exchange also makes it possible for these developers to quickly deploy the backend logic necessary to create conversational interfaces for multiple enterprise and consumer –like chatbots for popular messaging apps or voice apps – to more critical dialogs, like legal and government bots.
What do you think AI’s largest impact on the world will be?
AI is changing the world by transforming how we work. AI systems have the power to learn at incredibly fast rates —continuously sharpening their skills. They are good at what they do: processing information at a blazingly fast rate. But they don’t reason like we do. We’re creative and capable of real thought. They are there to help us to do what we do best.
As businesses transform, I think AI will trend toward personalization. By that, I mean users will perceive the AI systems they are interacting with as being made just for them. We’re already seeing this happen. For example, IBM Watson is helping leading European bank Crédit Mutuel’s 20,000 customer advisors maximize their time. Watson can help them handle the routine queries, giving each customer a personalized approach while giving them more time to meet the needs of customers with more complex needs. I think this kind of personalization means improved service —each customer comes away feeling valued, and like the world has almost personalized just for them.
See for yourself the latest with Bot Asset Exchange