Count me as genuinely excited about IBM’s announcement that researchers are now able to use its Watson cognitive computer for medical research. This is the computer that dusted the all-time human Jeopardy champs in a real-time game. The announcement came a few days after I toured the Museum of Computer History in Palo Alto, Calif. and stood at the podium of the actual Jeopardy set used for the Watson game.
I want to see cancer gone. I have family members surviving it, I’ve lost family members because of it over the past 2 years. And although we’ve improved some treatments, it just seems we’re nowhere nearer a cure. A computer like Watson can help. It can essentially synthesize all the world’s data on the disease. It can fairly quickly scan and distill more than 60,000 or 600,000 journal articles about a single topic, whereas a researcher is lucky to be able to read one or two articles a day.
IBM calls the new cloud-based Watson service “Discovery Advisor” – a nod toward a conviction I share, that technology combined with human curiosity and passion is what drives exploration, discovery and advancement.
The fact that we can all now essentially tap into the most powerful computer in the world – a computer unlike built before – is a comforting light in a world that suddenly seems to be turning darker with armies on the march that want nothing more than to destroy technology and launch a second Dark Ages.
Here’s a great retroactive vid on Watson’s Jeopardy victory, in case you missed it the first time around.
(Photo courtesy of IBM)