Quoted: IBM’s Watson, all grown up

“It feels very much like Watson has grown up and gone places by itself. Left the nest.”

Jennifer Chu-Carroll, one of IBM’s specialists in natural language processing, on the evolution of Watson.

The intelligent-machine system developed by IBM first stepped into the limelight when it beat a human, Ken Jennings, on the TV show “Jeopardy” in 2011. At the time, I wrote about IBM’s Watson effort then turning to medicine. A year later, IBM talked about using Watson as a sort of souped-up Siri for businesses. Still, last year IBM was reportedly disappointed that Watson had brought in less than $100 million so far.

Now, IBM tells New York Magazine, Watson has been “applied in 75 industries in 17 countries, and tens of thousands of people are using its applications in their own work.” Watson has written a recipe book, is working as a Wall Street analyst, been trained in molecular biology, and dabbled in oil exploration. One company is reportedly using Watson to create a dinosaur toy that talks and responds to its owner.

Is Watson a precursor to an artificial-intelligence nightmare, the type that’s been mentioned by the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking? Should IBM tread carefully? Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes in New York Magazine: “So much of our reaction to artificial intelligence is relative. The billionaires fear usurpation, a loss of control. The middle-class engineers dream of leisure.”


Photo from IBM via Associated Press


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  • Watson, however, needs to go to school. He is brilliant at playing chess, and at sorting and analyzing content you give him. I was hoping there was an api and I could just spoon feed him search terms and Google. Each developer develops the content, basically. Lots of action in genetics, little in toxins, slim to none in dental records and materials impacts. Remember Einstein’s sage advice, if your life depends on the solution, spend 55 minutes of the hour formulating the right question? Having the right data is also essential to Watson, and our health.

  • TekFollower

    I think you’ve lost the plot there. Once trained Watson can make any professional the most experienced in the world. Wouldn’t you like to have the most experienced doctor in the world treating you even if his advisor, Watson, required some training just like them? To see how Watson works and is trained see https://youtu.be/KZ_O3lZdUjE