Blake Dowling: Artificial intelligence — curing cancer, or world domination? – Florida Politics

Blake Dowling: Artificial intelligence — curing cancer, or world domination?

watsonI made a strategic decision Sunday — to sit out the second round of presidential debates.

Instead, I enjoyed a fascinating expose on artificial intelligence (AI) on “60 Minutes.” We all have pre-conceived notions about AI.

Stephen Hawking has said when machines are smarter than us, it will bring about the end of the world. Specifically, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Most of us are familiar with the fictitious Terminator film and television franchise, unfolding the saga of John Conner versus Skynet, which follows Hawking’s thinking.

In these stories, AI does indeed bring about the end of mankind. Or does it? In the final episode, with so much time travel, it’s difficult to really know what happened.

Then there are other forms of AI that are much less dangerous, like driverless cars (less dangerous behind the wheel than my teenage stepson), and my pal Siri — who, I am afraid, is a long way away from doing anything intelligent, much less damaging. Although she has the weather question down. That is her go-to question, and it’s a home run every time.

Are you familiar with Watson? IBM’s monster super-computer is named for IBM founder Thomas J. Watson.

Watson combines artificial intelligence with analytical software to create the ultimate question-answering machine. Watson runs on over 90 servers, making it a workhorse of a machine. It lives in a space the size of about a dozen refrigerators.

Featured on Jeopardy in 2011, Watson became a star that evening. Keep in mind, however, Watson is not connected to the web, so answers came from its knowledge base, which has been slowly built over time.

By the end of the night, Watson meted out losses to the other contestants and punched the winning ticket with over $77,000 in prizes.

So, now that it has conquered the game show circuit, what is a world famous rock star AI supercomputer to do with itself? Retire to a Tahitian data center and work on a digital tan? Sip Cyber Daiquiris on the beach?

Not this machine;  the ball has just started rolling.

In 2016, Watson is tackling the most difficult medical and legal cases, paired with the world’s top (human) minds. Estimates put 8,000 documents on cancer research coming out globally each day.

Not a doctor in the world can process that much information. They might be able to receive all of the updates, but the keyword in this scenario is “processing.” Watson can comprehend research, apply it to real-life cases, and help with the ever-so-difficult task of treating cancer.

At the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Watson analyzed over 100 recent cases and, in 300 patients, the computer found clinically actionable information the human team alone had missed.

So — in round numbers — Watson brought new insights to 300 cases; and in some cases, new hope.

What we are seeing with Watson is only the beginning. The IBM team predicts that the platform is in its infancy, and Hawking’s fears are way out of bounds.

Because none of us want to bump into this guy anytime soon:



Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His columns are publishing by several organizations. You can reach him at


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at or at
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