Dr Joanna Batstone, Vice President and Lab Director at IBM Research Australia, says that the potential of data has an enormous reach.
Beyond its business and manufacturing functions, it has the potential to save lives and have real societal impact and value.
Even now, the use of data is making enormous differences to people’s lives around the world. For example, when the Ebola virus broke out in Sierra Leone, there was the ability to leverage real-time data to pin-point where supplies were running low, and to do topographical heat-maps in order to ascertain where the most help was needed.
This program saved hundreds of lives, yet we are just at the very beginning of what we can do with data.
In order to really understand the true potential of data, Batstone states that we need to be thinking about cognitive systems. A cognitive system has three parts:
They can learn at scale (interpret data)
They reason with purpose
They interact with humans naturally (in that we want to use a natural technique – by voice, by text, very intuitively.)
If you apply these parts to medicine, you would train a system to learn by experience, and recognise patterns. IBM have partnered with skin cancer clinics to look at how systems can differentiate between the different types of skin lesions. By building in abilities to determine, shape and dimensions, you will have a system that would have the same features of a skilled dermatologist.
Dr Batstone argues that if they can bring together these values (deep-learning, discovery, large-scale mathematics and fact-checking) with that of humanity (compassion, intuition, design and value judgements,) then there is the potential to truly transform the world.