A reader writes:

Another way to think of the cost-benefit equation with winning Jeopardy is the comparative energy consumption of the people versus Watson. Several terabytes of storage, thousands of parallel computing cores and several cooling units that make up Watson compared to a human that consumes several thousand calories per day. I'm sure even the Watson stage avatar by itself consumes more energy than the two human contestants.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at Watson's innards. Another writes:

I watched the PBS documentary on Watson last week and what struck me most was just how close we are to a Star Trek ship’s computer. 

Being a fan of The Next Generation, I loved watching Beverly Crusher go back and forth with her sickbay computer to diagnose a medical issue.  You could see flashes of inspiration in Beverly’s eyes as the computer made connections that she had no way of making because it was tapping into to resources and databases her human mind could never store internally (or never even know about).  But the “ta-da” moment came from Beverly as she connected the dots herself, and then bounced her logic off the computer to make sure it was sound, sometimes going several rounds before working it all out.  Watson seems very close to being able to fulfill that kind of promise.

The documentary touched on a possible new type of “big picture” researcher.  A scientist or doctor that uses a Watson-type interface to make connections across various fields of research; connections that specialists might never make because of their narrower focus.  As long as a person is trained on how to ask the questions, the Computer can pull answers from all available sources and suggest multiple related items that might never have been considered before.

The potential is extraordinary, right?

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