Chris Welty


Even the changes are changing: A new age of cognitive computing

Watson, the computer that achieved prominence in 2011 by defeating the all time best players of the American TV quiz show, Jeopardy!, was a herald of a new age.  Suddenly it was possible for machines to understand us, in our own language.  In the six years since, new AI and cognitive capabilities for machines are being announced at a dizzying pace, yet in the 60 years before Watson, AI moved comparably slowly.  There are a few simple factors that have helped move us into the cognitive computing age, such as availability of data and the power of computation, but there is a deeper reason.  Artificial intelligence itself has had to change, from a view of machines as perfect rational thinkers, to an understanding that cognition is intimately tied to perception, which is imperfect, and that therefore knowledge and reasoning is inherently subjective and ambiguous. Once we accept this, we can continue changing.


Dr. Chris Welty is a Sr. Research Scientist at Google in New York, and the Endowed Chair of Cognitive Computing at the VU University, Amsterdam.  His main area of interest is using structured semantic information to improve semantic processing of unstructured information, such as using freebase to help improve web search. His latest work is on using crowdsourcing to form a new theory of truth based on diversity of perspectives, and he was part of the team that recently launched Explore in Docs.

Before Google, Dr. Welty was a member of the technical leadership team for IBM's Watson - the question answering computer that destroyed the all-time best Jeopardy! champions in a widely televised contest. He appeared on the broadcast, discussing the technology behind Watson, as well as many articles in the popular and scientific press.  His proudest moment was being interviewed for about the project.  He is a recipient of the AAAI Feigenbaum Prize for his work.

Welty was one of the first to call attention to the new paradigm of Cognitive Computing that has emerged in computation, and he previously played a seminal role in the development of the Semantic Web and Ontologies, and co-developed OntoClean, the first formal methodology for evaluating ontologies. He is on the editorial board of AI Magazine, the Journal of Applied Ontology, the Journal of Web Semantics, and the Semantic Web Journal.

DBPedia Keynote - Senior Research Scientist at Google