What happened to IBM’s Watson?


IBM insists its revised AI strategy – reduced ambition and less world-changing – is working. The task of restarting growth was given to Arvind Krishna, an IT specialist who became CEO last year, after leading the recent overhaul of IBM’s cloud and AI business.

But the great visions of the past have disappeared. Today, instead of being a shortcut for tech prowess, Watson stands out as a sobering example of the pitfalls of tech hype and pride around AI.

It turns out that the march of artificial intelligence through the mainstream economy will be more of a step-by-step evolution than a cataclysmic revolution.

Time and time again in its 110-year history, IBM has pioneered new technologies and sold them to businesses. The company has so dominated the mainframe market that it has been the target of a federal antitrust case. PC sales really took off after IBM entered the market in 1981, making small machines essential tools in corporate offices. In the 1990s, IBM helped its traditional business customers adapt to the Internet.

IBM executives have come to see AI as the next wave to ride.

Mr Ferrucci first introduced Watson’s idea to his bosses in IBM’s research labs in 2006. He believed that building a computer to tackle a question-and-answer game might do the trick. advancing science in the field of AI known as natural language processing, in which scientists program computers. recognize and analyze words. Another research objective was to advance automatic question answer techniques.

After overcoming initial skepticism, Ferrucci assembled a team of scientists – ultimately more than two dozen – who worked in the company’s lab in Yorktown Heights, NY, about 20 miles north of IBM headquarters. in Armonk.

The Watson they built was a room-sized supercomputer with thousands of processors running millions of lines of code. Its storage drives were filled with digitized reference books, Wikipedia entries, and e-books. Computational intelligence is a matter of brute force, and the massive machine required 85,000 watts of power. The human brain, on the other hand, runs on the equivalent of 20 watts.


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