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IBM looks into the future of A.I. at World of Watson

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 26, 2016
In 3 to 5 years, Watson could help doctors diagnose disease and CEOs make business decisions

"The Easy button started as a marketing prop on TV," Masud said. "It became a cultural icon. In fact, it's a hash tag. It became so big, we wanted to give it life. With Watson, we can."

The point goes beyond marketing, according to Masud. "It's about eliminating as much friction as possible for people who may be ordering a packet of pens to take to school, or for an office manager ordering cases of pens, ink cartridges and binders.

"The Easy Button system learns over time and remembers common phrases and with every interaction it becomes more intuitive," he said. "Every time Dave asks for blue pens, Watson remembers what shade of blue he likes… Watson is the cognitive brain behind all of this."

Steve Hill, U.S. head of Innovation and global head of Innovation & Investments at KPMG, said the accounting and professional services firm is using Watson to help make commercial loan decisions.

"We can use it to process thousands of loans," Hill said. "Click on the name of the client to see all their loans and get Watson's assessment of their [standing] in a fraction of the time. There are major efficiency gains. Watson can help auditors glean deeper insights into root causes of issues."

IBM is also placing some focus on self-driving cars.

Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Udacity, an online education company, and a former Google fellow, said A.I. systems like Watson will make automobiles better drivers than people.

"When you and I drive a car and we make a mistake, we learn from it and hopefully we never make that mistake again," Thrun said. "But nobody else will learn from it. Our friends, our kids -- they won't learn from it."

That's all different for autonomous cars driven by an artificial intelligence system.

"When a self-driving car makes a mistake, it will learn from it and will never make that mistake again," Thrun said. "All the other self-driving cars also learn from that mistake. All other self-driving cars will learn that as soon as they are born.

"Wait a little bit and Watson will outpace you," he added.

IBM's Kenny said A.I.-based systems and machines will work with people to make their lives better and their jobs easier.

"Our future is one of man and machine," he said. "It's certainly not man vs. machine."

The conference continues through Thursday.


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