Written by Pavitra Srinivasan
“No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered” — Winston Churchill
Curiosity and our relentless pursuit of ideas that seemed bizarre at inception have formed the basis of how we humans have progressed over time. Be it for Thomas Savery or the Wright brothers, they believed in the power of their ideas and no doubt their efforts have transformed the way we live today. Imagine life without steam engines a hundred years ago or traveling around the globe without airplanes in the 21st century, wouldn’t that be hard? That is the power of disruptive ideas; it becomes an integral part of our living. The advent of the internet or the information age is one such quantum jump that has accelerated the progress of human race by leaps and bounds. With the luxury of accessing information about almost anything under the sun at the click of a button, we are certainly better positioned to make our ideas come true and make the world a better place to live. This post is about one such technology, which is gradually yet drastically altering our day to day interactions, Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Natural language processing is the overarching term used to describe the technology of using computer algorithms to break down everyday language into smaller chunks to identify vital components and extract meaning from unstructured spoken or written input. NLP is an inter-discipline of computer science that requires skills in artificial intelligence, computational linguistics, and other machine learning disciplines.
Let’s try to understand how NLP is put to use by considering a more relatable example. How about we take the case of twitter for starters, the platform we all use to voice our opinions? All twitter does is capture opinions, on a given topic, from across the globe. Following which, data experts try to interpret the prevailing sentiment of the public towards an issue, by performing sentiment analysis on the words used by twitter users. Sentiment analysis, is a text mining technique that attempts to evaluate the emotion associated with words by teasing out the positive intent words from the non-positive ones. Isn’t it fascinating, how we can make our voices heard without having to step out of our living room?
Shifting gears to a much closer case, ever wondered how Siri on your iPhone can understand your commands and carry out tasks accordingly? This is indeed one of the magic of NLP, more specifically from its speech recognition capabilities. Hasn’t this software application, with its voice handling abilities, made driving our favorite car a lot easier, without having to worry about your directions ? More recently, smart devices such as Alexa, google home are also extended applications of this NLP capability.
Now, let’s take a step back and imagine if we can extend the applications of NLP to other, more important, walks of life. Many experts believe that there are several untapped applications of NLP with wide ranging implications. For instance, in the paradigm of healthcare, NLP can be leveraged to summarize elaborate texts to identify key concepts from clinical notes or even clean the unstructured text from clinical notes and thereby improve the quality of data for further medical examination. On the other hand, data geeks in the billion dollar insurance industry are already working on combating fraudulent claims by exploiting NLP technology to spot the patterns in text inputs from claim submitters. To sum up, several such ideas can come to life with young minds developing a true sense of appreciation for the technology and pursuing a passion driven career. That being said, I hope we are ready to roll up the sleeves and work for the greater good.
https://gigaom.com/2017/01/10/rocketalexa1/ http://healthitanalytics.com/features/what-is-the-role-of-natural-language-processing-in-healthcare http://smartdata2017.dataversity.net/sessionPop.cfm?confid=110&proposalid=9436
About the Author:
Pavitra is a founding member of Humans For AI, a non-profit focused on building a more diverse workforce for the future leveraging AI technologies. Learn more about us and join us as we embark on this journey to make a difference!