“What will you do with Watson?” is the question at the end of an upbeat new video touting IBM’s $1 billion investment in the development and commercialization of its supercomputer technology and its move to New York’s Silicon Alley.
Cameron Scott, writing on the Singularity Hub, puts a slightly different spin on the query: “What contribution would you make to humankind if you controlled an advanced artificial intelligence platform? Or perhaps the more honest question is, how would you make money off of it?”
Observers have spent the week absorbing the company’s announcement last Thursday — one that is enlisting the likes of you in an effort “to fulfill the potential of new cognitive computing technologies,” as Scott points out IBM senior VP Michael Rhodin wrote on the company’s blog. “People say, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Rhodin continued. “In this case, it will take a global village to deliver on the promise of cognitive computing.”
“It's a bit of commonly accepted wisdom in big data circles that small companies and startups will be the ones to drive big data technology forward and define the shape of the market to come,” observes Thor Olavsrud in CIO.
As far as the logistics go, “the company has created a stand-alone group to develop big data solutions, funded with $1 billion and staffed with 2,000 employees, and moved the entire shebang to a hip location in Manhattan’s East Village,” explains Jonathan Salem Baskin on Forbes’ CMO Network. “Its very existence will change conversations about big data, even those with customers in which Watson doesn’t participate…”
Not to mention the fact that “the marketing should be loads of fun, and every company in the space will benefit from the sales effort Watson puts into explaining technical terms to its business customers like ‘data mining’ and ‘machine learning.’”
We all know that Watson is a heckuva game-show contestant. The problem is whether it’s capable of delivering more complicated answers than “who is Bram Stoker?” in a way you can both utilize and afford. And it can afford, too.
“The company has always claimed that Watson was more than a publicity stunt, that it had revolutionary real-world applications in health care, investing, and other realms,” Bloomberg Businessweek’s Drake Bennett points out. “IBM CEO Virginia Rometty has promised that Watson will generate $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years, but, according to the [Wall Street] Journal, as of last October Watson was far behind projections, only bringing in $100 million.”
The company maintains that the same artificial intelligence that won “Jeopardy” could soon be “your co-doctor, personal shopping assistant and much more,” as CNN Money put it in the lede of its coverage of last week’s announcement. “Show it a patient's medical records, and Watson can tell you it's 95% certain that one type of chemotherapy is better than all other options.”
“This will change the face of healthcare,” Rometty said at the event unveiling the initiative. “This is a new era of machine-human collaboration.”
ZD Net’s Larry Dignan points out that Rometty positioned it “as the beginning of the mainstream cognitive computing era,” following only two other “computer eras” — tabulated and programmable.
“Rometty's scene setting was at least partly aimed at skeptics and the commercialization challenges with Watson so far,” Dignan writes.
Before getting to the YouTube coverage of Watson’s momentous victory on “Jeopardy” on Feb. 16, 2011, embedded in the link above this morning, I “suffered” through a 2:33 spot featuring a “behind the scenes” look at Scarlett Johansson shooting a Super Bowl commercial for SodaStream.”
Its CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, “announces the empowerment of consumers around the world” with the tagline “Better Bubbles Made By You.” What with yesterday’s news about Google buying Nest Labs, Watson’s going hipster on us and the ability for mere mortals to produce their own fizzy, flavored seltzer with the aid of a little technology, can there be any doubt that the singularity is, indeed, nigh?)
Yes, yes, the doomsayers about the new technology — Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era — are nigh as well.