Viewpoint / AI

Cognition-as-a-Service (CaaS): The Rise of Digital Assistants & Co-Workers

When I observed that AI+Human=Human Squared back in September of 2023, I did not predict the velocity of that change. At Mayfield, in January 2024, we shared our investing focus on the cognitive plumbing layer (middleware, data, models, cognitive cloud infra) as a rich area of opportunity for startup innovation. However, I think the industry is going into a deeper sea change — the era of Cognition-as-a-Service (CaaS) — which follows the mega waves of IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).

Cognitive Plumbing tech stack IaaS CaaS

Every day, we are seeing AI elevate our lives by automating our daily tasks and augmenting our capabilities. I am bullish about the concept of digital assistants or co-workers, intelligent pieces of software (which are built using Large Language Models) that humans interact with using English or their native language that research, plan and take action to complete daily tasks.  

In business, digital assistants are going beyond content creation and code generation to fundamentally transform essential enterprise workflows. Our company Sema4 has developed an automation-as-code platform that builds digital assistants that go all the way from intent to action. For example, a bank manager can go beyond simply chatting with an LLM (if they have implemented one) on what to do in the case of a fraud alert to actually taking action on blocking the transaction and sending the customer the recording and remediation forms. It’s a matter of time before digital assistants for every persona are available, creating a cadre of digital co-workers who work alongside humans to not only automate mundane tasks, but to also complete high-level intelligent tasks that could only be done by humans. 

On a consumer level, whimsical examples of assistants that sort your laundry or design stickers are being discussed. I would love to see one that simplifies my travel — finds me that perfect beach to vacation at as a group of 7 including our pet Labradoodle Toby, books my hotel and flight, remembers to ask if I need a car or two, records and communicates my diet preferences, checks me into my flight, and delivers my boarding pass. 

I see a future where every persona gets a digital co-worker, enabling humans to behave like superhumans.

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