IBM's Manoj Saxena on What Watson Will Mean for the Future

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Artificial Intelligence
At a recent TEDx talk, IBM's Manoj Saxena gave a talk which delivered, as promised, not an IBM commercial, but delved into what the true potential of cognitive computing systems like Watson are in the future.

It has already been two years since IBM's Watson defeated the world's best Jeopardy! players and forever changed how we look at artificial intelligence.

From that point on, understanding information, not data was recognized as an area where computation could be implemented.  Computational speed combined with understanding is what this era of digital processing is becoming.

According to IBM's Manoj Saxena, there have been three big shifts in the history of knowledge: development of alphabets, development of the printing press, and development of the Internet.  Now, the next leap will be when artificial intelligence, or cognitive computing systems begin.  Systems, like Watson learn by reading, just like people do, making a whole new paradigm.  Other systems like Google Now and Apple's Siri also use conversational systems but not to the level of Watson.

IBM Watson

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Saxena says Watson is less about programming, and more about actual learning by reading (at a rate of 200 million pages in three seconds) and working with people.  Saxena believes that this essentially means that the system is capturing the knowledge of the individual, such as those of a cancer expert.  Watson also learns from the answers that users select.

Already, Watson is beginning to impact the world of medicine.  Saxena believes the AI system is already working with the knowledge level of a first-year medical student. By the time today's students enter and leave medical school, the knowledge has doubled.  There is no way to catch up, let alone stay ahead for an unassisted person.  Watson's use therefore is to cover all of the research and disseminate the information and aid in decision-making with probabilistic certainty.

To prove Watson's capability, Saxena is pushing to have Watson pass the US Medical Licensing exam.

One of the major advances in Watson has been to shrink the size of the room-sized machine to the size of a single server.  The new "baby Watson," is now 9" x 18" x 36" and weighs about 100 pounds.  On top of that, the system is 240 times faster than the system that won on Jeopardy! These developments will make Watson use more widespread, compounded by the use of the system on the cloud.  One area IBM is exploring is using Waston in call centers (see video below).

Saxena is an Indian-American business executive, serial entrepreneur, accomplished CEO, inventor, investor, and philanthropist with interests in education, innovation, and automotive racing. Saxena is currently the General Manager for IBM Watson Solutions -- announced on March 2011. In this capacity he is responsible for the commercialization and scaling of IBM Watson, a new class of industry specific analytical solutions.


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