Five years ago, IBM’s Watson triumphed playing Jeopardy! Watson subsequently embarked on a challenging career in healthcare, medicine, and genetics. Watson has faced a steep learning curve, according to Steve Lohr in The New York Times. “Today, IBM executives candidly admit that medicine proved far more difficult than they anticipated,” he writes.
Nevertheless, Watson’s victory spurred interest in AI. Lohr cites Quid estimates that venture capital firms invested $8.5 billion in AI startups and established firms. The investment represented three-and-a-half times the 2010 level. Lohr quotes computer scientist and author Jerry Kaplan as saying, “We are definitely at a peak of excitement now. Expectations are way ahead of reality.”
Adds Lohr, “The history of tech tells AI backers to hang in there. Silicon Valley veterans argue that people routinely overestimate what can be done in three years, yet underestimate what can be done in 10 years.”
He quotes Jeremy Howard, founder and chief executive of startup Enlitic, which initially focuses on radiology, as saying that AI can transform healthcare, “but that’s a 25-year project.”
As for Watson, Lohr reports that the IBM Watson unit now has 7,000 employees and 500 industry partners. In addition, nearly 80,000 developers have downloaded Watson software. IBM does not break out financial results for Watson, but the unit contributes to IBM’s $18 billion per year revenue from business analytics.