Earlier in the year I attended an IBM sponsored event and during one of the talks I first heard, the “cognitive era of security”. The speaker talked about a transition from the Intelligence Era to the Analytics Era and then into the Cognitive Era. All well and interesting but after the presentation I still felt unsure as to what exactly this “Cognitive Era” meant. Walking out of the auditorium I envisioned the advent of a digital entity that would be capable of passing the famed Turing test.
But that didn’t seem quite right.
Fast forward a few months and this “Cognitive Era” verbiage has become increasingly prevalent. I see more-and-more articles headlining the term. It is a feature set soon to arrive in IBM offerings such as their QRadar Security Intelligence Platform and Application Security Analyzer. Since we are a provider of IBM Security solutions I figured it was time to educate myself on the reality or un-reality of what this era will really look like.
Cognitive Era: Just a Fancy Term or Something More?
For starts, is the term Cognitive Computing equivalent to that of Artificial Intelligence? Well no, but there is a relationship. According to the Cognitive Computing Consortium, which provides a rather detailed definition of Cognitive Computing, state:
“Cognitive computing makes a new class of problems computable. It addresses complex situations that are characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty; in other words, it handles human kinds of problems.”
They go on further to say: “Cognitive systems differ from current computing applications in that they move beyond tabulating and calculating based on preconfigured rules and programs. Although they are capable of basic computing, they can also infer and even reason based on broad objectives.”
As for defining intelligence, or its “artificial” variant, is a lot more difficult. I think understanding this “Cognitive” Era will be easier to grasp if we try not to think about it in the context of a human intelligence definition.
Making Sense of Reason, and Watson
Instead of intelligence, let’s just think of a machine capable of reason. By reason I mean the ability to “find an answer to a problem by considering various possible solutions” or “…form judgements by a process of logic”.
With Watson, IBM’s “question answering computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language ”, fits my definition of a cognitive-reasoning-machine. Its capable of answering questions by means of logical deduction and in a way that may be superior to how a human would go about answering the same question. A good example is how Watson diagnosed a leukemia patient within 10 minutes when doctors were stumped for months.
Cybersecurity and Reasoning Machines
Currently, IBM Watson is undergoing Cybersecurity training and a beta program was recently announced. At this time, I’m not aware of any other options for a cybersecurity-reasoning-machine other than Watson.
With the massive Cybersecurity workforce deficit, Watson for Cybersecurity could be a lifesaver for many organizations (and security professionals) who struggle to keep up with the rapid growth of technology and the new threats and mitigating strategies that change brings.
When the masses finally get their hands on IBM Watson for Cybersecurity, it will be interesting to hear the stories of how it gets utilized and the level of question complexity it can handle. For example, could it tell me how a machine was infected by malware and what I can do to prevent it from happening again? Can I ask it what the best security architecture would be given a certain set of criteria? Can it tell me which product is a better choice for my needs given my unique set of use cases? Maybe it won’t be able to answer those kinds of questions initially but over time this technology can only improve.
For me, I don’t see cognitive computing, or self-driving cars, or plants for that matter as meeting my definition of “intelligent” but that doesn’t mean those things can’t exhibit intelligent behavior. Some people think IBM Watson is intelligent while others don't. That’s a fascinating discussion but don’t let it over-shadow the profound impact this technology has and will have on information intensive sectors such as medicine and information security.
I for one look forward to getting my hands on IBM Watson for Cybersecurity. I can’t wait to see how it answers my -sometimes absurd- questions! For more information, check out a quick 2-minute video on the Solutions II Security page. You can also download the Solutions II Top Security Threats eBook.