Imagine a world where machines know you on a personal level. By modeling a virtual "you" into their programming—including how you think and your expertise on a subject—it would know just how to accommodate your particular preferences. It’s the kind of world where your car understands how you drive and compensates for your weaknesses, and where your home computer knows not to greet you too cheerfully when you’re having a bad day.
A revolution is at hand, says Chris Forsythe, member of the Labs’ cognition research team. It’s not one of just better guns and weapons for national security. Instead, “it’s a revolution of the mind — of how people think and how machines can help people work better.”
For researchers at Sandia National Laboratories that goal is being tackled full throttle with its Cognitive Science and Technology Program.
Much of their research focuses on the uniqueness of the individual as they interact with others and with machines. It involves using machines to help humans perform more efficiently and embedding cognitive models in machines so they interact with users more like people interact with one another. The result is the ability for researchers to take advantage of the basic strengths of humans and machines while mitigating the weaknesses of each.
The term “cognitive systems” has been used worldwide as an umbrella term for a variety of programs, initiatives, and technologies. According to Sandia: “Cognitive systems consist of technologies that utilize as an essential component one or more computational models of human cognitive processes or the knowledge of specific experts, users, or other individuals.”
John Wagner, manager of Sandia’s Cognitive and Exploratory Systems and Simulations Department, anticipates that within the next decade research that seems like science fiction today will be a daily part of everyone’s lives. The cognitive revolution will be in full bloom, and computers and humans will have a much better rapport and intuitive relationship. Perhaps even more importantly, some of the applications of this blooming technology could helps humans better understand the perspective of other human beings.
“Once that happens, the best of both worlds can happen,” Wagner says. “If we understand human cognition better, we can work together as a nation to reduce tension, find problems before they turn into armed conflict, and to work toward actions that establish and maintain peace worldwide.”
Posted by Rebecca Sato
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