What is IBM up to?
First there was IBM’s Watson, the computer that beat the chess champion then went on to win on Jeopardy. Then there was IBM’s TrueNorth, the computer chip that emulates the parallel processing of the brain. Now we have the newly announced IBM chip that quadruples the logic density versus the current best! IBM is aggressively pursuing many of the areas that will eventually lead to AI.
Let’s look at Watson. IBM is backing Watson’s expansion into industry with a $1 billion investment because they expect to make many billions in profits! I already mentioned that Watson is learning Japanese. But it is doing much more. IBM’s Watson is very active in the medical field. Trained by doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, IBM Watson for Oncology suggests tailored treatment options by using case histories and the doctors’ expertise. Anthem WellPoint claims that doctors miss early stage lung cancer half the time, whereas Watson catches it 90% of the time. And the size of Watson for these applications has shrunk from room size to pizza-box size.
But there is more. If you go to the Watson Developer Cloud, you can see 14 areas they are working on: Language Translation, Speech to Text, Text to Speech, Tradeoff Analytics, Personality Insights, Natural Language Classifier, Concept Insights, Concept Expansion, Message Resonance, Question and Answer, Tone Analyzer, Relationship Extraction, Visual Recognition, and Visualization Rendering. Many of these areas are very subjective and involve much learning and interpretation. Sounds like AI!
These are not just academic studies; many companies are starting to use Watson. “LifeLearn’s Sofie” helps veterinarians identify treatment options for cats and dogs. “Engeo” uses Watson to assist on environmental issues, especially in emergencies when timely actions are required. “Welltok” uses Watson for personalized self-healthcare assists. “Talkspace” enables users to talk with a licensed therapist confidentially. “Decibel Music Systems” uses Watson to collect and organize qualitative data on musical influence.
IBM has been rather quiet on its TrueNorth chip other than saying it is working on languages to program the chip, much like Fortran and Basic were developed early in the current computer architecture. But given the efforts being put into Watson, and realizing the speed, energy efficiency, and parallel processing of the TrueNorth chip, there seems little doubt that IBM has no less of a goal than to disrupt the whole computer industry and lead the way to AI. The pizza-box size of Watson will shrink to a laptop, and the thinking will transition to more brain-like reasoning, with a generalized background knowledge coupled with limited data input enabling quicker and broader-based thinking.