Who–or what–is Watson? To answer this question properly, we have to account for what artificial intelligence is. We have not quite reached the sci-fi level of artificial intelligence, but we are getting there, and Watson is a very big step towards that very controversial goal:
Watson is an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM‘s DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson was named after IBM’s first CEO and industrialist Thomas J. Watson. The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2011, Watson competed on Jeopardy! against former winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. Watson received the first place prize of $1 million.
The following videos give us a little more insight into the nature of Watson:
What is happening with Watson today? As we all know by now, technology can have many applications, especially information technology, mediated by a very complex network of algorithms that aim to mimic human intelligence. As recently as a few days ago, news were published about what Watson is up to these days: he’s a chef and, in a not too distant future, might even be a biomedical detective:
Scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine and IBM Research have already used Watson to discover new pathways to cancer therapies, which they reported in a study presented at an academic conference this week. Watson looked closely at 70,000 scientific articles on a protein, called p53, that’s involved in more than half of all cancers. From its analysis, it picked out 6 different proteins that might function as a switch to turn on and off the p53 function–and therefore might be possible good targets for new drugs and cancer therapies. For comparison, says IBM research scientist Scott Spangler, human beings have only discovered about 1 new p53 target a year over the course of a decade.
How would Watson be useful for our lives in the near future? Should we be weary or afraid of what artificial intelligence means for mankind? If not, what would be different? How would our lives change if say, a future technology thousands of times smarter than Einstein, is as conspicuous as Google is today?