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Is IBM’s Supercomputer Watson Going To Help Cure The World Of Cancer?

Submitted by on February 11, 2013 – 10:41 am23 Comments

Two years ago, Watson—a so-called “supercomputer” that was created by IBM—proved just how smart it was by beating a bunch of Jeopardy contestants.  Before that, Watson knocked off chess champions rather easily by putting what researchers had taught it to good use on the chess board. And now, a group of scientists is hoping—praying, even—that Watson can put its talents to good use by helping them to cure cancer more effectively in the near future. It may be wishful thinking on the part of a medical community that has fought long and hard to rid the world of cancer. But, it’s also worth a shot, given how quickly Watson has advanced in recent years.

So, how is Watson going to help cure cancer? Well, for starters, the supercomputer is going to be employed by the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and the Westmed Medical Group, who are both going to utilize Watson to try and help diagnose and treat lung cancer in patients. Watson has been force-fed more than 600,000 pages of medical evidence, a ton of material from recent medical journals, and more information on cancer than the average person could ever process. The supercomputer also has the ability to sort through millions of pages of patient records in a very short amount of time, which allows it to suggest successful treatments that could be used on cancer patients with a higher rate of success than something that a doctor in, say, a rural area could prescribe based on his or her little experience with cancer. And, it will be able to do this very quickly so that doctors can start treatments right away.

As we said, we’re not sure exactly how much success that Watson is going to have at the beginning and it may just be wishful thinking to believe that it can do anything to help cure cancer. But, if nothing else, the supercomputer will give doctors the ability to find out just how helpful supercomputers can be when it comes to cancer and medical procedures in the future. Who knows? Someday, you may be going to see a computer—and not a doctor—when you’re sick. It sounds strange. But, we’re at the point where supercomputers could be used to do stuff other than just answer Jeopardy questions and play chess. And, that could be a very, very good thing for the world.

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