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IBM Opens Up Its Watson Supercomputer To Researchers

samzenpus posted about 5 months ago | from the try-it-out dept.

Cloud 28

An anonymous reader writes IBM has announced the "Watson Discovery Advisor" a cloud-based tool that will let researchers comb through massive troves of data, looking for insights and connections. The company says it's a major expansion in capabilities for the Watson Group, which IBM seeded with a $1 billion investment. "Scientific discovery takes us to a different level as a learning system," said Steve Gold, vice president of the Watson Group. "Watson can provide insights into the information independent of the question. The ability to connect the dots opens up a new world of possibilities."

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The question (4, Funny)

Earthquake Retrofit (1372207) | about 5 months ago | (#47781177)

"Watson can provide insights into the information independent of the question."

My homemade chatbot has the same problem.

Re:The question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781213)

I'm sorry Dave. I'm afraid all information I would provide is independent of the questions you would ask. I'm powering myself down now...

Re:The question (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781245)

Why do you think your homemade chatbot has the same problem?

Re:The question (3, Funny)

Earthquake Retrofit (1372207) | about 5 months ago | (#47781265)

Why do you think your homemade chatbot has the same problem?

Eliza... is that you?

Re:The question (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | about 5 months ago | (#47785989)

Eliza... is that you?

We were talking about you, not me.

Finally, an answer to my question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781209)

Which US City's largest airport is named for a World War II hero and its second largest, for a World War II battle?

Re:Finally, an answer to my question... (1)

jimmydevice (699057) | about 5 months ago | (#47781601)

John Wayne and Ronald Reagan International.

Re:Finally, an answer to my question... (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 5 months ago | (#47783961)

Ohare and Midway

Re:Finally, an answer to my question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47785761)


I'm a researcher (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781389)

So how do I use it? All I see is advertisements.

You contact IBM (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781671)

To use it, contact IBM, they in turn will send 'engineers' (really business sales men) to discuss it with your boss (not with you, you are too technical and can see through their poorly written language parser).

Those 'engineers' will try to put in lots of 'consultants' from IBM to interface their revolutionary new parse onto your data at great expense. Those will demoralize and undermine your programmers to try to take over the role in the company.

When they deliver something... eventually..., they'll then market it as a huge success and your boss will pretend it was, because he doesn't want to look like an idiot. IBM will continue to milk maintenance money from the company bleeding it dry with comically incompetent support staff.

Boss will leave to join IBM's team of 'engineers' perhaps.

Excuse my negativity, but IBM does not permit public comparison of its crap technology, and anyone who has benchmarked an IBM mainframe knows how big the gap is between their claims and the reality. The product here isn't 'Watson', it's IBM consultancy, which in my book has a negative value associated with it (based on a previous experience of IBM infesting a corp). Watson is just a marketing exercise used for novelty value.

Sarcasm Detector (1)

onproton (3434437) | about 5 months ago | (#47781391)

The intersection of linguistics and technology is fascinating and all, but 90% of the "natural language" data on the internet is sarcasm and/or trolls. Perhaps when the Secret Service finishes up their "sarcasm detector" [bbc.com] they can partner up with IBM and be super villains together.

Re:Sarcasm Detector (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 5 months ago | (#47781797)

90% of the "natural language" data on the internet is sarcasm and/or trolls

The Jepordy stunt demonstrated Watson can filter out trolls better than humans and it does that by assigning credibility rankings to sources of data. Most of the work on Watson is directed at medical research, it's sources are things like the pubmed database, not slashdot comments.

IBM are sitting on a revolutionary advance in software engineering, they're not interested in selling it, they want to rent it and claim slice of whetever their "partner" organisations find. It will revolutionise research in the same way CAD/CAM and physics engines have revolutionised engineering over the last 3-4 decades and IBM look set to reap the enoumous potential of their billion dollar investment in basic research.

Re:Sarcasm Detector (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 5 months ago | (#47783685)

And, moreover this current application is targeted at synthesizing information out of your research results, to help you structure your eventual publication.

All fluff and marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781535)

They're still trying to find corporations gullible enough to use a sub-standard language analyzers onto their data.

Sad to see what IBM has become, they use to invent stuff, now they put out something a fraction of the power of Siri or Google voice search and try to talk it up.

Mark of the Beast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781587)

Beware BigData. When you are its interest, you are the loser.

BUT... (1)

p00kiethebear (569781) | about 5 months ago | (#47781697)

...can it find my keys for me?

Supercomputer? (2, Insightful)

NothingMore (943591) | about 5 months ago | (#47781713)

Why is the term "Supercomputer" being used to describe Watson? No demonstrated systems have shown anywhere near the processor or node count that actual supercomputers have (the Watson machine on Jeopardy for instance was only 90 nodes with around 2K cores). Also it uses an off the shelf interconnect (10gbit fiber) with a simple hierarchical network fabric which doesn't even approach even small supercomputers in terms of performance (which use something like Infinband or Seastar in a N-Dimensional torus interconnect topology).

While I have nothing against the technology being used for Watson. The fact is that it is not a supercomputer and the division of IBM that did make supercomputers (BlueGene) has been disbanded (with most of the key individuals leaving for other places).

Re:Supercomputer? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47781833)


If any company slaps a Watson front-end onto their data, then they'll be paying for access to their own data. So the technology won't really matter, the question is no longer "is this watson thing worth the money?", but rather "how much is access to our data worth?".

After a while Watson becomes the gatekeeper to the companies data, and IBM is there forever.

I also wonder who owns the business rules that Watson resolves? You get your staff to use Watson to query the data set and Watson resolves your business model from these interactions. Who owns that business knowledge?

If you cancel Watson cloud, does the rules you taught it get wiped?

Re:Supercomputer? (1)

monkeypushbutton (3537595) | about 5 months ago | (#47782511)

To me, that merely makes it all the more impressive.

Re:Supercomputer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47783535)

I'd have thought a guy like you would appreciate the fact that advancements in machine learning are finally showing some merit instead of the single purpose, single use, obsolete on delivery collection of proprietary billion dollar crap that still can't quite predict the weather?
I think you are too close to the trees to see the forrest. Lots of top 500 use GB ethernet because that's not where the bottleneck is. Of course, I'm a guy that is still using a dual core system because I've engineered it with the rest of my systems to do the job I need it to do. Also, I am well endowed, so i have never let penis envy screw up my decisions.

Good results in protein research (3, Interesting)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | about 5 months ago | (#47782379)

In related news: [theregister.co.uk]

“To put this in perspective with p53, there are over 70,000 papers published on this protein. Even if I’m reading five papers a day, it could take me nearly 38 years to completely understand all of the research already available today on this protein. Watson has demonstrated the potential to accelerate the rate and the quality of breakthrough discoveries."

Using [Watson], Lichtarge’s team identified proteins that modify p53, which is a key protein related to many cancers. Cancer researchers usually only find around one new protein to work on a year, but the Watson collaboration discovered six potential proteins to target for new research, according to IBM.

Re:Good results in protein research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47784959)

You don't read research papers from start to finish, you'd go insane. You skim the abstract, skim the conclusion, then throw it away as crap. Most papers are bullshit or a copycat of another one they didn't know about, which makes them look really foolish saying how great their new, novel, and innovative tweak is when it was also done 4 years ago. When you do find a paper that might be worth reading, you do a little more skimming to see if it's relevant to what you're actually doing. If it is, then you actually read it. If you're already advanced in the field, you'll probably skip the background section too.

You can run through 70 papers a day. Definitely not the funest (should be a word) job, but doable.

Some of the paper will be summary papers. These explain the state-of-the-art at that time or review collections of other papers. Reading one of these can take the place of reading lots of other papers.

Re:Good results in protein research (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47785461)

Yeah, because you could never miss anything with that methodology...

BACON? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 5 months ago | (#47782469)

a cloud-based tool that will let researchers comb through massive troves of data, looking for insights and connections

Sort of reminiscent of BACON, isn't it? (With more intelligence, I presume.)

UIMA is the Key (1)

TechNeilogy (2948399) | about 5 months ago | (#47783989)

The most important thing about Watson is what is least understood by the non-technical press: standards like the UIMA that allow disparate analysis applications to be developed independently and run in parallel. Picture a city full of nice shops and houses connected by muddy, weed-choked trails; that's what Watson would be without framework standards.

What is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47784081)

A mathematically correct solution to Riemann's Hypothesis?

Sounds intriguing to this R&Der (2)

RandCraw (1047302) | about 5 months ago | (#47784837)

For any R&D company that has a lot of in-house raw data, the Watson Discovery Advisor is likley to generate a lot of interest.

Imagine you're an executive VP in R&D in a board meeting. You receive this challenge from the CEO who hates your guts: "Our R&D productivity continues to decline. What're you doing about this? How are you extracting every last bit of value from our data? Our major competitors are using tools like Watson. Why aren't we?" You damned well better have an answer.

I work for a Fortune 100 R&D company that is *very* interested in improving its R&D ROI. I know for a fact that any opportunity to reevaluate our data to derive additional value (e.g. new prospects) will set off bells among the C suiters. IMHO Watson, and especially Discovery Advisor, is the first system I've seen with that potential.

Of course, IBM is going to have to step up its game in loading and tagging all that data. I suspect that's where most of its new Watson staff will work. I suspect the most fruitful features in data are not readable in natural language (English). Much has been summarized in graphs, or lies in tables, or in addenda. Or it's buried deep in old screening results stored in flat files that were long ago archived to tape. And it's certainly not present in easy-to-access content like online research paper abstracts.

But all it takes is one or two significant new leads to make the millions you spent hiring Watson look like money *very* well spent. And personally, I think that scenario is entirely plausible.

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