“Too much” data is now enough data.

Kyla Moran from the IBM Watson Group shared that phrase midway through a session at the Annual Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting, titled “Doctor, Lawyer, Contestant, Chef – How Cognitive Technology Will Drive Transformation of Society As We Know It.”

The term “big data” has been used to describe the vast array of data available and often as part of the challenges to harness that information, but the amount of data is not the problem. One hurdle cognitive computing is facing is around unstructured data and language interpretation – for example, “nose runs” or “feet smell.” But as these systems grow and by having humans interact with them, the technology will continue to improve. And as the technology continues to “learn,” its value will appreciate.

Moran posed the question to the audience: Is Watson is artificial intelligence? The answer stated was no – but that it is augmented intelligence. She noted that the decision making process is in human hands. The cognitive technology is designed to help humans make more informed decisions, and the system can learn and bring forward what it thinks we may want to know.

As this technology continues to evolve and move closer to being implemented more broadly, there was a brief discussion around sensitivities in the legal profession such as attorney-client privilege and corporate secrets. Moran addressed this concern pointing to Watson’s work in the medical field and how it must maintain data confidentiality in certain areas such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Moran noted that Watson’s structure in the medical arena will serve as a foundation for legal, tax and additional professions that may require additional privacy and regulation.

History has shown that significant changes can make many people or professions reluctant to embrace those changes, where others welcome them with open arms. As cognitive technology looks to transform the way answers are derived, legal professionals are likely to be faced with that very scenario.

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