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Unformatted text preview: ro ductio n.A list o f the current
superco mputer perf o rmance champs can be f o und at http:/ / www.to p500.o rg. Superco mputing
was o nce the do main o f go vernments and high-end research labs, perf o rming tasks such as
simulating the explo sio n o f nuclear devices, o r analyzing large-scale weather and climate
pheno mena. But it turns o ut with a bit o f tweaking, the algo rithms used in this wo rk are pro f o undly
usef ul to business. Co nsider perhaps the wo rld’s mo st well-kno wn superco mputer, IBM’s Deep
Blue, the machine that rather co ntro versially beat chess champio n Garry Kasparo v. While there is
no t a burning need f o r chess-playing co mputers in the wo rld’s co rpo ratio ns, it turns o ut that the
co mputing algo rithms to cho o se the best amo ng multiple chess mo ves are similar to the math
behind cho o sing the best co mbinatio n o f airline f lights. Paging Doctor Watson
In spring 2011, the wo rld was intro duced to ano ther IBM superco mputer—the Jeo pardyplaying Watso n. Built to quickly answer questio ns po sed in natural language, by the end o f a
televised three-day to urnament Watso n had put the hurt o n prio r Jeo pardy champs Ken
Jennings and Brad Rutter, tro uncing the human rivals and winning o ne millio n do llars
(do nated to a children’s charity). Watso n’s acco mplishment represented a f o ur-year pro ject
that invo lved so me twenty-f ive peo ple acro ss eight IBM research labs, creating algo rithms, in a
system with ninety servers, “many, many” pro cesso rs, terabytes o f sto rage, and “tens o f
millio ns o f do llars” in investment.L. Sumagaysay, “Af ter Man vs. Machine o n ‘Jeo pardy,’
What’s Next f o r IBM’s Watso n?” Go o d Mo rning Silico n Valley, February 17, 2011. Winning
Jeo pardy makes f o r a f ew nights o f interesting TV, but what else can it do ? Well, the “Deep QA”
techno lo gy behind Watso n might end up in yo ur do cto r’s o f f ice, and do cs co uld likely use that
kind o f “exo brain.” On average “primary care physicians spend less than twenty minutes f aceto -f ace with each patient per visit, and average little mo re than an ho ur each week reading
medical jo urnals.”C. Nickisch, “IBM to Ro ll Out Watso n, M.D.,” WBUR, February 18, 2011.
No w imagine a physician assistant Watso n that co uld leverage massive diagno sis databases
while scanning hundreds o f pages in a perso n’s medical histo ry, surf acing a best guess at what
do cs sho uld be paying attentio n to . A JAMA study suggested that medical erro rs may be the
third leading cause o f death in the United States,B. Starf ield, “Is U.S. Health Really the Best in
the Wo rld?” Jo urnal o f the American Medical Asso ciatio n, July 26, 2000. so there’s apparently an eno rmo us and mighty tro ubling o ppo rtunity in health care alo ne. IBM is
partnering with Massachusetts vo ice-rec leader Nuance Co mmunicatio ns (the Drago n peo ple)
to bring Watso n to the do c’s o f f ice. Med scho o ls at Co lumbia and the University o f...
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This document was uploaded on 01/31/2014.
- Winter '14