Corrections or additions?
This article written by Melinda Sherwood was published in U.S. 1
Newspaper on April 21, 1999. All rights reserved.
Meet HAL, He Wants You to Share Your Data
Remember HAL, the omnipresent computer in Stanley Kubrick’s
film 2001 that was so perfectly human that it became perfectly malevolent?
Although still in their infancy, similar "thinking" computers
are now becoming an important tool in business, as a result of software
that enables computers to "learn."
"Knowledge-enabling" technology, says Michael Charney,
vice president of Corporate Knowledge Services at Molloy Group Inc.
in Parsippany, is going to determine which businesses survive in an
era of internet-driven commerce. "Consumers are much more empowered
today," he says, pointing to how the internet is both guiding
sales and providing customer support services. "If you’re looking
to make customers happier," he says, "an intelligent technology
is a way to do that."
Charney will lead a discussion on "Preparing for Knowledge Management
in the E-commerce World" at the PSE&G Training Center at 234 Pierson
Avenue in Edison on Tuesday, April 27, at 5 p.m. Cost: $30. The Knowledge
Management Forum is sponsored by Technology New Jersey. Call 609-414-4444.
Charney holds a BA in psychology from Berkeley, Class of 1980, and
has spent the past 20 years working with technology, first as a systems
analyst and later as an instructor of new software. He received an
MA in English from William Paterson and published his own fiction
and non-fiction works in both college journals and high school text
books. "I am fascinated with language and the way the mind works,"
he says, "so when I had an opportunity to help design new models
for implementing knowledge, and learn about the technology, I felt
At Molloy Group, Charney draws on his own knowledge
and experience in psychology, linguistics, teaching, and computer
science to create a methodology for implementing knowledge system
products — specifically, a proprietary piece of software called
a "cognitive processor." This, he explains, is what enables
computers to model human thinking when tapping into traditional databases.
"Until now," he says, "computer `thinking’ has been rather
primitive." Decision trees, he explains, enable computers to come
up with simple answers based on "yes" or "no" questioning,
a model that is both slow and limited. Case-based reasoning allows
computers to superimpose queries on paradigms until an appropriate
match and, consequently, solution to a problem is found. "This
is good for static knowledge," Charney says, "but if you have
knowledge that changes frequently, you have to keep changing and updating
The new technology, called a "neural network," enables computers
to make sophisticated associations when dealing with a query. "If
you punch in the word `sun,’" Charney says, "you’ll also get
moon, and everything related to it." The process is organic; it
is about making connections, similar to the way in which the creative
human mind works.
Charney sees the new technology becoming an essential tool in businesses
that rely on customer service and support. A customer service representative
dealing with a billing problem, for example, would be able to tap
into the collective experience of anyone who has ever dealt with a
similar problem and could retrieve a sophisticated answer quickly.
The advantages are obvious, says Charney. "The website or telephone
support center that allows me to do my business quickly and efficiently,"
he says, "is the one that’s going to get my business."
Businesses that benefit from the new technology should prepare to
undergo cultural changes, not just technological changes. Charney
offers the following advice:
incentives to employees for careful documentation and sharing of information.
"There has always been a cultural bias towards knowledge hoarding,"
Charney says. "In the past, businesses and employees have been
territorial about knowledge. It was a competition thing."
software, you need to establish the integrity of the information already
in place. "The effectiveness of the system depends on the ongoing
quality assurance process," Charney says.
better product, technical or sales support? Do they want it over the
telephone or on the web? Knowledge tools and software can be deployed
on an enterprise-wide level, helping both employees and customers
in a variety of ways.
search engines on the web. At this point, however, it is not widely
used outside of private enterprise. It may not be HAL, but then again
— we have not yet reached the millennium.
— Melinda Sherwood
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.