For those that haven’t heard on February 14th the television show Jeopardy is televising a special match between 2 of its all time winners (Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings) against IBM’s “Watson” Computer

(Jeopardy – Watson Page)

Lets see how you can “Keep Pace” with “Watson”

What is the Technology ?

“Watson” (named after the IBM founder)  is a combination of hardware and proprietary software developed by IBM specifically for this challenge.

Some interesting facts on “Watson”

  • Under development for 4 years
  • It uses 2,880 computer processors
  • It scanned 200 million pages of content
  • It can perform  80 TRILLION operations per second
  • It is the size of 10 refrigerators

AND – it recently won the  Jeopardy “demo” match between the contestants mentioned above

The IBM Watson press release

NOTE:   IBM is not new to the “man vs machine” wars as they previous built a chess playing computer program called  “Deep Blue”  that beat the then World Champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

Why is this important ?

Forgetting the “man vs machine” debate, a number of real world applications exist for this type of technology

1.  Helping Lawyers – Imagine a computer that can process reams of data and help find previous rulings (called “case law”) that could be used to help their client’s case

2.  Medical Field – The ability for a doctor to diagnose an illnesses or get information on combinations of different medications in seconds

3.  Business Simulation – The ability to better simulate business decisions using various economic scenarios

Any situation that is “data intensive”  is a candidate for “Watson”

How can you “Keep Pace” with this Technology?

As “Watson” is not commercially available, it might seem hard to imagine what its impact is.   But if we dream just a little .. Watson could …

1.  Create new jobs – While Watson is an impressive piece of technology, it still can’t think / reason (at least not in the traditional sense).   But the power of Watson hasn’t yet been applied to the other disciplines mentioned, so opportunities could evolve in applying / growing the use of Watson

2.   Smarter Robots  – As we know technology gets faster and smaller each year.   Can you imagine the day that the power (or at least a subset of Watson could fit into a computer the size of a human brain?    This would allow the development of new types of robots for menial tasks

3.  Enhance Space Exploration – Can you imagine sending an intelligent “Watson” enabled robot to Mars and having it explore the planet?

What applications could you see “Watson” tackling ?

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