Technology Spotlight: IBM Watson is Artificial Intelligence in Reality

For many years, Artificial Intelligence was simply an idea that we saw on television or in movies. The thought of a program that could actively think far beyond human capability was something that was impossible and, to some, even scary. IBM’s Watson seeks to change the way we view Artificial Intelligence by showing us the benefits it can bring to society.

Watson, named after IBM’s founder Thomas J. Watson, is an analytical software system and supercomputer that was made to simply answer questions, according to creator David Ferucchi. Initially made to answer questions on the show Jeopardy!, Watson has turned into a machine capable of reading through thousands of scientific medical articles to help find cures, or sifting through cases to find a legal solution.

When first introduced to the medical world in 2012, Watson was put to the task of making decisions involving treatments for lung cancer. Fast forward four years and, today, over 90 percent of the nurses in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York City follow Watson’s instructions. Since then, IBM has altered the original intent of the Watson technology to dedicate it to solely learning medical articles and helping doctors and nurses find solutions.

As Watson has grown in it’s capabilities, the spotlight on the new technology continues to grow. Reddit, the open forum website that calls itself “The Front Page of the Internet”, has even given IBM Watson its own page for people to post and have discussions about the AI. An article by the New York Times gave high praise to Watson after the machine was able to find alternative treatment options for 300 cancer patients that the doctors had never read about. With over 160,000 cancer-research articles alone published every year, it is simply impossible for doctors to read everything. However, Watson can read them all. It’s because of this ability that Watson has become the model for a new wave of doing medical research, one that includes the brainpower of both a human and a machine.

Watson is indeed a unique instrument, one that is paving the way for a new function of information technology in the medical field, and with IBM putting four billion dollars behind their idea, it is safe to say that Watson is here to stay.



Kofi Ladans

Undergraduate Consultant