Friday, February 18, 2011

Jeopardy and Risk

@Forrester's Andras Cser notes the victory of IBM's Watson computer in a TV quiz game, and asks How Can You Capitalize On This In Risk And Fraud Management?

In his short blogpost, Cser doesn't offer an answer to this question. He merely makes one assertion and one prediction.

Firstly he asserts an easy and superficial connection between the game of Jeopardy and the profession of security, based on "the complexity, amount of unstructured background information, and the real-time need to make decisions." Based on this connection, he makes a bold prediction on behalf of Forrester.

"Forrester predicts that the same levels of Watson's sophistication will appear in pattern recognition in fraud management and data protection. If Watson can answer a Jeopardy riddle in real time, it will certainly be able to find patterns of data loss, clustering security incidents, and events, and find root causes of them. Mitigation and/or removal of those root causes will be easy, compared to identifying them."

As this is presented as a corporate prediction rather than merely a personal opinion, I'm assuming that this has gone through some kind of internal peer review, and is based on an analytical reasoning process supported by detailed discussions with the IBM team responsible for Watson. I'm assuming Forrester has a robust model of decision-making that justifies Cser's confidence that the Jeopardy victory can be easily translated into the fraud management and data protection domain within the current generation of technology. (Note that the prediction refers to what Watson will be able to do, not what some future computer might be able to do.)

For my part, I have not yet had the opportunity to talk with the IBM team and congratulate them on their victory, but there are some important questions to explore. I think one of the most interesting elements of the Watson victory is not the complexity - which other commentators such as Paul Miller of Engadget have downplayed - but the apparent ability to outwit the other competitors. This ability may well be relevant to a more agile and intelligent approach to security, but that's a long way from the simplistic connection identified by Cser. Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing the evidence that Watson is capable of analysing root causes, which would be a lot harder than winning at Jeopardy.

Paul Miller, Watson wins it all, humans still can do some other cool things (Engadget 16 Feb 2011)
IBM's Watson supercomputer crowned Jeopardy king (BBC News 17 Feb 2011)

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