Ten years ago, International Business Machine Corp.’s artificial intelligence system Watson defeated humans in the quiz show “Jeopardy!”
This feat should have heralded a change in the way machines provide answers to big and small questions, thereby opening up new sources of revenue specifically for Big Blue and Big Tech. A key goal: healthcare, a trillion-dollar industry whose inefficiency makes some tech proponents feel that AI can be cured, which makes them feel uneasy.
Ten years later, this promise has not been fulfilled in reality. IBM is now exploring the sale of Watson Health’s business, the department’s marquee products should help doctors diagnose and cure cancer.
IBM spent billions of dollars on acquisitions to build Watson. Former IBM executive John Kelly once called the plan “adventure.”
Alphabet Inc.’s Google DeepMind division developed a Go-playing algorithm that defeated a human champion in 2016, and then launched a number of healthcare-related initiatives for chronic diseases. In recent years, it has also suffered losses and encountered privacy issues in how it collects health data.