October 1, 2009

Conversational Computing and Enterprise Architecture

In MIT Technology Review, 19 September 2007, in an article entitled “Intelligent, Chatty Machines” by Kate Green, the author describes advances in computers’ ability to understand and respond to conversation. No, really.

Conversational computing works by using a “set of algorithms that convert strings of words into concepts and formulate a wordy response.”

The software product that enables this is called SILVIA and it works like this: “during a conversation, words are turned into conceptual data…SILVIA takes these concepts and mixes them with other conceptual data that's stored in short-term memory (information from the current discussion) or long-term memory (information that has been established through prior training sessions). Then SILVIA transforms the resulting concepts back into human language. Sometimes the software might trigger programs to run on a computer or perform another task required to interact with the outside world. For example, it could save a file, query a search engine, or send an e-mail.”

There has been much research done over the years in natural-language processing technology, but the results so far have not fully met expectations. Still, the time will come when we will be talking with our computers, just like on Star Trek, although I don’t know if we’ll be saying quite yet “Beam me up, Scotty.”

From an enterrpise architecture standpoint, the vision of conversational artificial intelligence is absolutely incredible. Imagine the potential! This would change the way we do everyday mission and business tasks. Everything would be affected from how we execute and support business functions and processes, and how we use, access, and share information. Just say the word and it’s done! Won't that be sweet?

I find it marvelous to imagine the day when we can fully engage with our technology on a more human level, such as through conversation. Then we can say goodbye to the keyboard and mouse, the way we did to the typewriter--which are just museum pieces now.


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