When Cognitive Takes Over Your Inbox

Would you trust a computer that can’t tell jokes?

I was fascinated to hear recently from Vinith Misra how important it has become for computers to develop a sense a humour.

Humans use humour as a safety valve to relax and overcome frustration. With computers surrounding us more and more, computational humor or computers’ ability to generate jokes is becoming vital. “We need this lubrication or we are going to get too frustrated”.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 18.31.07Vinith explained that data, as it keeps growing, can now teach machines how to have a humorous personality and communicate better with people.

Vinith works as a researcher for IBM Watson.

Having joined IBM six months ago, I am extremely excited about Watson. I find myself talking about it at every party. And usually, the people I talk to are equally excited. The other night, at a reception, I met a lady who works for a venture capital firm that invests in media and entertainment. She mentioned that some of the most interesting projects she has come across lately involve start-ups working with the Watson APIs.

Now the magic around Watson is spreading to an area very close to my heart…

Project Toscana, announced by IBM at Connect 2016, is a collaboration platform that brings together instant messaging, mobile-first features that work across devices, new ways of managing and displaying files and more, all powered by cognitive computing.

Watson is always there in the background.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 18.31.31It works on your inbox to find email that requires action. It performs sentiment analysis, highlights words and tells you which emails you should answer first. It runs analytics to show how busy the calendar of another member of our network is and produces a heat map to show you their availability. It helps you create content by indexing, categorising and suggesting tags.

After watching the Toscana demo the other week in Florida, I went back and looked at the slides of some of the workshops on enterprise social networking I was running four years ago…. It is as if light years had gone by!

Whatever you are doing in the enterprise collaboration space, be aware that cognitive is going to put your plans on steroids.

Watson is adding a cognitive layer to the way we collaborate. It is going to help us organise our work.

And in a world where an increasing number of employees work from home with limited face-to-face interaction with managers and colleagues, having this kind of support will soon become essential.

And back to Vinith’s point, I do want my cognitive assistant to have a great sense of humour…. if possible Samuel L. Jackson style!


The views expressed here are my own.


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