IBM announced last week it has moved its cognitive computing system into the cloud to form the Watson Discovery Advisor, allowing researchers, academics and anyone else trying to leverage big data the ability to test programs and hypotheses at speeds never before seen.
Since Watson is built to understand the nuance of natural language, this new service allows researchers to process millions of data points normally impossible for humans to handle. This can reduce project timelines from years to weeks or days.
The ability to understand natural language queries is a big deal. You can ask, for example: “I’m going to be in Boston. I like basketball. What do you suggest, Watson?” You might get several answers: Celtics tickets, Boston College tickets, Harvard tickets. Or in the offseason, Watson may suggest you drive to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield (MA). Companies are already using Watson this way. Fluid, Inc.’s Watson-based retail solutions deliver granular results to queries such as “I am taking my wife and three children camping in upstate New York in October and I need a tent.” Consider this: Watson has been taught to pass the medical boards. Would you trust it to diagnose you and prescribe medication? What if you claim to be in pain (e.g., back pain, migraines, depression) and Watson doesn’t believe your subjective input? Here’s more food for thought: What if Watson could learn to code? Why not? It’s hardly heretical to suggest that as Watson works with developers, it will one day be able to generate solutions based on a natural language query. That’s equally exciting and worrisome. Now if you want to poke a little fun at Watson, read this Steve Lohr piece in The New York Times (2013) about Watson in the kitchen. Just skim it — the kicker is at the end.