The following is an excerpt from The Language of Technical Communication, the seventh book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2016).

What is it?

A branch of computer science that focuses on the development of software agents, also known as cognitive technologies, capable of performing tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as finding, interpreting, and manipulating visual and textual information.

Why is it important?

Artificial intelligence is producing cognitive technologies that are radically changing, and even automating, many traditional communication tasks. Technical communicators need to adapt accordingly.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this term?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been advancing rapidly recently, and, as cognitive technologies, its impact has been spreading. Here are some of the reasons why AI has become so important today including:

  • Cognitive technologies have become much more practical, shifting the focus to performing human tasks rather than emulating human thought.
  • Massively scalable big data acquisition, storage, and processing infrastructure has become broadly accessible.
  • Decades of research and experimentation in AI, while not successful in emulating human thought, has been successful in improving problem-solving and learning algorithms.

A key area of application for AI is Natural Language Processing. Here, tasks commonly performed by people are being increasingly automated, or at the very least facilitated, by intelligent software applications. These tasks include text translation, summation, validation, classification, interpretation, and even generation.

Another area of AI advancement is computer vision, where image and video processing automates the selection, interpretation, and manipulation of visual resources. Yet another important area of AI advancement is information discovery, where contextually aware applications help select relevant information resources for users based on real-time data.

For technical communicators, these changes could not be more significant. More and more traditional communication tasks will be subjected to automated support and even replacement. What this means is that the focus for technical communicators will shift more and more towards the human side of the equation, such as facilitating all-important cross-functional collaborations, the value of which will in fact be increased and not diminished by the advance of AI.

About Joe Gollner

Joe Gollner is the Managing Director of Gnostyx Research, which he founded to help organizations leverage content standards and technologies as the basis of scalable and sustainable content solutions. For over 25 years, he has championed content technologies as an indispensable mechanism to help organizations manage and leverage what they know.

To read more from The Language of Technical Communication, check it out on the XML Press website, or buy the book now on the AmazonBarnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website.