The Most Important Answer AI Doesn’t Know

Important note: Saturday 11 August’s Money Morning Weekend has been removed from the website and should not be relied upon, as the contents were taken directly from the article found here without providing appropriate credit and quotation. We apologise to Switzer.com.au for this oversight.

Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are walking encyclopaedias.

Fun facts, trivia, interesting titbits, these two know it all.

It’s why both decided to apply for the US quiz show, Jeopardy!.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, each night three trivia buffs face off.

They’re presented with clues to an answer which most have no idea.

For example, one clue was this: In the 1800s, Carl Wunderlich got this number by averaging over a million readings from armpits of 25,000 patients.

Now who, I ask you, knows this without having to look it up?

The answer was 98.6 by the way.

To win, you need to correctly answer as many of these clues as possible. Winning also means you become the carry-over champion to the next night.

For Ken and Brad, clues like the above were routine. It’s why Ken was able to win 74-times and Brad became a 20-time Jeopardy! champion.

But in 2011, Ken and Brad met their match.

Both teamed up against the greatest player in Jeopardy! history: Watson.

Could AI be used to treat cancer?

Ken and Brad were facing IBM’s Watson, a system with artificial intelligence (AI).

From The Guardian:

Watson showed off its encyclopaedic knowledge of topics ranging from ancient languages to fashion design, along with a few glitches.

‘“Vedic, dating back at least 4,000 years, is the earliest dialect of this classical language of India, was one of the clues given by host Alex Trebek.

‘“What is Sanskrit?” Watson answered in the show’s question-as-an-answer style, before going on to solve clues ranging from agricultural policy in the European Union to the designer Marc Jacobs.

The latest challenge shows that IBM — which turns 100 this year — wants to stay at the forefront of the information technology industry, despite apparently being usurped by companies such as Google and Apple.

What makes Watson particularly advanced, even compared with Deep Blue, IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, is its ability to find answers from ambiguous clues, such as this one: It’s a poor workman who blames these.

‘“What are tools?” answered Watson.’

Watson’s ability to come up with answers from clues wouldn’t just make it king of Jeopardy!, researchers thought.

The computer could also solve some of our most sought after solutions: future energy needs, a potential overpopulation crisis and answers to human diseases.

So IBM put Watson to work. Since 2011, Watson has been analysing massive amounts of data, coming up with new innovative products and dabbling in medical diagnoses.

The latter has seen IBM spend billions and many years trying to find an answer for cancer.

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Reported by The Wall Street Journal:

‘“Watson represents a technology breakthrough that can help physicians improve patient outcomes, Herbert Chase, a professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University, said in a 2012 IBM press release.

Six years and billions of dollars later, the diagnosis for Watson is gloomy.

More than a dozen IBM partners and clients have halted or shrunk Watson’s oncology-related projects. Watson cancer applications have had limited impact on patients, according to dozens of interviews with medical centres, companies and doctors who have used it, as well as documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

In many cases, the tools didn’t add much value. In some cases, Watson wasn’t accurate. Watson can be tripped up by a lack of data in rare or recurring cancers, and treatments are evolving faster than Watson’s human trainers can update the system. Dr Chase said he withdrew as an adviser after he grew disappointed in IBM’s direction for marketing the technology.

No published research shows Watson improving patient outcomes.

While Watson might have no clue about answers for cancer, a small group of researchers might.

We’re on the cusp of a medical revolution

In California, a group of medical researchers are pioneering technology that could save millions.

Their priority, initially, is ovarian cancer. Recent results have been extremely promising. And they’re about to meet with regulators in the months ahead.

I really believe this could be one of those moments that kicks off a medical revolution.

If they can get approval and commercialise this technology, it won’t just been a boom for the medical industry at large. It will translate into MASSIVE gains for this tiny biotech stock.

In fact, if all goes to plan you could ride this investment to a 2,422% gain.

They’re calling it the ‘living drug’, if you’re interested in learning more about this, check out my article from last week here.

Your friend,

Harje Ronngard,

Editor, Money Morning

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Money Morning is Australia’s most outspoken financial news service. Your Money Morning editorial team are not afraid to tell it like it is. From calling out politicians to taking on the housing industry, our aim is to cut through the hype and BS to help you make sense of the stories that make a difference to your wealth. Whether you agree with us or not, you’ll find our common-sense, thought provoking arguments well worth a read.

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