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A tech revolution is coming -- just wait for it

How does a tech revolution begin? With the hyped rollout of some slick gadget at a convention in Las Vegas or San Francisco, followed by headlines everywhere about how the thing is already changing people’s lives (meanwhile, folks are queuing outside retail stores in the rain wearing ponchos)?

Not quite, said IT consultant Judith Hurwitz. Technologies that “transform everything” take decades to evolve.

Hurwitz, who wrote Hybrid Cloud for Dummies and other books on IT, was at the recent Cloud Expo in New York to talk about cognitive computing, which simulates human brain functions. It learns the way we do, Hurwitz said, and will change the way business applications are built.

Judith Hurwitz

IT consultant Judith Hurwitz speaks on cognitive computing at the recent Cloud Expo in New York.

Software of the future will rely not on programming, as traditional apps do, but on an ever-flowing input of data, changing as structured database files and unstructured journal articles and videos are ingested and analyzed.

It will have an enormous impact on data-intensive industries like healthcare, changing the way doctors diagnose patients – they’ll collaborate with machines like IBM’s Watson on diagnosing patients. And in manufacturing, according to The National Academy of Engineering, production systems will be imbued with intelligence and reasoning — and operate themselves.

That’s not all. Cognitive computing will refashion legal and financial services, retail, marketing and security, Hurwitz said.

It just won’t happen tomorrow.

“When the technologies are mature enough, ubiquitous enough, the infrastructure’s in place — that’s when dramatic change suddenly happens out of nowhere,” Hurwitz said.

Take the Internet. When did you start sending more emails than letters? Probably around 1996 or ’97. Electronic communications were first sent in the early 1970s over the ARPANET, a networked developed for the U.S. Department of Defense.

There was no come-from-behind tech revolution with the fax machine either. It was developed throughout the mid-to-late 1800s but didn’t become an office staple until the 1980s.

“All of these technologies take time to evolve,” Hurwitz said. “This is the reality.”

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