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What George Jetson Taught Me About Cognitive, Data and Human Instinct

Harnessing Data in the Cognitive Stack For Iterative Exponential Learning

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to Saturday mornings. It meant running downstairs in my PJs and camping out real estate in front of the TV to watch cartoons. (For the Millennials reading this article, I experienced childhood before YouTube, Netflix and the Carton Network. We actually had to watch cartoons at their normally scheduled times on television!)

The space age cartoon “The Jetsons” was a favorite for many. I was fascinated with this idea of the future, where things that were difficult had now been made easy with technology. I tuned in every week to watch and imagine being part of the Jetson’s lifestyle. And even in cartoons, the technology didn’t always work like it should. I can still picture George Jetson running on the out-of-control treadmill yelling to his wife, “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”

If we can harness cognitive computing to gather and learn from the right data, with business experts providing real world context to the bits and bytes, then we have an evolving intelligence.

I recently spoke at IBM’s World of Watson event. The Jetsons and what it represented was a sort of inspiration for what I wanted to share about the convergence of cognitive, data and human instinct.

Data has been growing exponentially over the past few years. Advancing technology has enabled the global economy to store and process ever-greater quantities of data. Forward-looking companies are embracing cognitive computing as part of their organization’s cornerstone to harness the full potential of data to learn and grow.


As Ginni Rometty wisely observed in her World of Watson keynote, “You don’t just do cognitive. You become a cognitive business.”

It’s Not Cognitive Without Context

Throughout time, there have been all kinds of inventions. Sometimes inventions have made things better and solved problems. Sometimes they’ve created new problems. In George Jetson’s case, the latest technology that dragged him out of bed and brushed his teeth while his eyes were still half closed didn’t solve the problem that he hadn’t got enough sleep the night before.

The unintended consequence of technological innovation is that every advancement can drive chaos back into the system. Potentially, the more we innovate the greater the chaos. That’s what’s going on in the world of data. We have more data than we know what to do with, which can create analysis paralysis.

If we can harness cognitive computing to aggregate, collate and learn from both digesting the right content, and interacting with the business experts who provide real world context to the bits and bytes, then we have an evolving intelligence. Not only does it get us to the right decisions now, but it helps us in the future - even if we don’t know the questions we might ask tomorrow.

Being able to collect and correlate data efficiently in order to find key descriptive, predictive and explanatory features of data is fundamental to drive cognitive insight.

Getting Right Sight from Business Data

There are events constantly unfolding in the world around us. At Dun & Bradstreet, we think about how those events relate to identifiable businesses – earthquakes, mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, new leadership, social unrest, changing local country laws…

Dun & Bradstreet uses data to construct the truth about a business in the moment. As we maintain our highly dynamic database of over 300 million businesses globally, we’re contending with different writing systems, languages, laws, thousands of sources, fraud, cyber crime – and how to bring all that data together to tell the story of an identified business at a moment in time.

Now we’re partnering with IBM Watson, working to make sense of disparate business and contact data - and doing something about it by bringing together IBM’s cognitive stack with our pre-mastered referential data. By delivering the right sight from data, people can better answer questions about a business on this earth.

Establishing a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

It’s so interesting how George Jetson’s futuristic work and home life has come true  – robots, treadmills, microwaves, smart phones and watches, MRIs and the Internet are just a few of them.

It’s this idea of driving impactful insight from the convergence of data, cognitive technology and human expertise. The part Dun & Bradstreet plays is taking the data complexity off the table for organizations. We deal with the changing laws, complicated business structures, different languages, etc. – so our customers can focus on the real things they’re trying to solve for – and learn from.

This is where cognitive technology fed with the right referential data is coming to life from Dun & Bradstreet with IBM Watson. This is where organizations can drive innovation, transformation and sustainable competitive advantage.

The techy data geek in me will always be fascinated with the next invention to help people solve their problems and make forward progress. Together, Dun & Bradstreet and IBM will be a part of that dynamic, tapping cutting edge cognitive technology infused with best-in-breed business data and analytics. Our hope is that together, we will help people do their jobs better – proactively plan the next business move and thoughtfully react to unforeseen events that require immediate response. 

The right business data in one place for human decisioning – that’s our mission. We can’t wait to see what the future holds!

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