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Supercomputer Watson Takes on Jeopardy — and Medicine?

An article in The Atlantic explores how IBM's supercomputer Watson could sift through the complex data produced by modern medicine.

Watson photo by Clockready / Wikimedia Commons

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When IBM’s supercomputer Watson ended up outplaying undefeated winners on the TV show Jeopardy, the artificial intelligence conversation took a new turn.

Most recently, Watson’s computational prowess has been a prime topic for discussion in modern medicine. As scientists learn more about the mechanisms of disease, the data produced by such discoveries tend to build up at staggering rates. Even more, the range of information that influences treatment options has become difficult to sort though. How can clinicians boil down “unstructured data” such as doctors’ notes, patient symptoms and biomedical research published in academic journals to make an informed decision about a patient’s health in real time?

As recounted in this long-form article in The Atlantic, Watson — and the algorithms pulsating through him — may provide shortcuts to make sense of complicated data. The machine, now perfecting diagnoses and formulating treatment recommendations, begs the question: Will we one day live in a world without human doctors?

Emergency rooms with robots alone is probably a long shot, but there’s plenty of research looking at ways to adapt technology for health care environments. Some projects at WID, which crunch Health Information Exchange data and use immersive virtual reality as a platform for rehabilitation, already embrace fusing the medical with the technological.

Read the article, ‘The Robot Will See You Now,’ via The Atlantic


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