How cognitive computing will touch your life in 2017

Cognitive computing has already affected your life, but expect your encounters with machine intelligence to be more frequent and profound

Cognitive computing is rapidly infusing every aspect of our lives. As 2017 approaches, the cognitive revolution—riding on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data science — is coming home to roost more rapidly than many realize.

Here are my predictions for the many ways in which you may encounter cognitive technology. I’m arranging these in descending order of likelihood for the average person going about their personal and/or professional life in 2017.

You’ll experience cognitive customer service

Most e-commerce applications now include in-line chatbots that pop out automatically and/or at your request to answer your questions, recommend products for you to purchase, and otherwise make your customer experience more seamless and satisfying. Behind the natural-language conversational interface are cognitive algorithms that are built and tuned by data scientists through real-world experiments, A/B tests, machine learning, and predictive analytics assets in line to merchants’ applications. If you haven’t encountered cognitive chatbots in your online shopping experience already, you’re almost certain to in 2017.

You’ll acquire a cognitive appliance

Within our lifetimes, every human artifact will either be retrofitted with AI, machine learning, and natural language processing capabilities, or it will be designed from with those capabilities. In 2017, you’re likely to interact with AI-driven apps embedded in wearables and other devices. Or you may have already taken that plunge in the form of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or a Watson-enabled chatbot in a doodad you picked up at your nearest consumer electronics retailer.

You’ll use a cognitive productivity application

Even if you somehow manage to avoid intelligent personal assistants in your life as a consumer, you may find yourself compelled or strongly encouraged to use them in your work life. In 2017, many enterprises will either retrofit their existing productivity applications with cognitive capabilities or acquire new services that natively embed these capabilities. We’re already seeing an uptick in commercial bots for human resources, employee engagement, office productivity, procurement, collaboration, messaging, and other business apps. In addition, enterprises in all industries will develop their highest-priority strategic applications on AI, machine learning, and virtual assistant technologies.

You’ll engage in a cognitive crowdsourcing initiative

The cognitive revolution depends on a steady flow of training data (images, voice, video, natural language text) that has been assessed, tagged, labeled, and otherwise curated by human beings. More of this training data, which is essential for building and refining the machine learning algorithms that underpin all cognitive computing, will come from crowdsourcing communities that operate 24/7 the world over. In 2017, more people will participate in these crowdsourcing initiatives for the first time, knowingly or otherwise, by responding to image-recognition CAPTCHA challenges to log into our online accounts. In that way, we’ll all become what I’ve referred to elsewhere as “pattern curators” of the cognitive era.

You’ll develop a cognitive application

Self-service data-science tools and starter kits are enabling people from a wide range of professional backgrounds to participate in the cognitive revolution as developers. In 2017, more self-taught cognitive developers—aka citizen data scientists—will begin to participate in high-priority enterprise projects. They will use open source tools, incorporating R, Spark, and other codebases, to develop sophisticated products that incorporate natural language processing, streaming media analytics, embedded deep learning, conversational chatbots, embodied robotic cognition, computer vision, autocaptioning, emotion analytics, geospatial contextualization, situational awareness, and other sophisticated cognitive features.

You’ll spot a cognitive vehicle in the wild

Though they still haven’t emerged into the consumer mainstream, we’ll almost certainly see more autonomous vehicles on the roads and cognitively powered drones in our skies in 2017. Some of us may even take our first ride as passengers or perhaps failsafe manual operators of self-driving cars over the next 12 months. Those of us in R&D, the military, or other specialized fields may even participate in development and trials of intelligent, dynamic swarms of semi-autonomous drones in the year to come.

Please join us on Thursday, December 8 at 1 pm ET for a live #MakeDataSimple CrowdChat in which I’m joined by prominent data industry professionals as we consider what’s in store for data science, big data analytics, cognitive computing, and data management in 2017. I’d love to hear what you have to say on these topics.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.