There's a general consensus being able to analyze massive amounts of data has the potential to help launch an AI revolution across a number of industries, but a lot of questions about when and where those revolutions will occur. In a new profile of Watson by the New York Times, there's a hint of what that revolution might look like in the field of medicine.
Already, Watson was roughly on par with human experts with its recommendations for how to proceed across a series of cancer diagnoses. But then it was able go further:
At the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Watson was tested on 1,000 cancer diagnoses made by human experts. In 99 percent of them, Watson recommended the same treatment as the oncologists.Those kinds of results help explain the billions IBM has spent on developing Watson as well as acquiring companies with health data. It also could be a good road map of how in the near future, AI will increasingly augment professionals in a number of fields, helping bring insights to bear that would otherwise be missed.
In 30 percent of the cases, Watson also found a treatment option the human doctors missed. Some treatments were based on research papers that the doctors had not read — more than 160,000 cancer research papers are published a year. Other treatment options might have surfaced in a new clinical trial the oncologists had not yet seen announced on the web.
But Watson read it all. “Humans enabled by A.I. is the way to go with genomics,” said Dr. Norman E. Sharpless, head of the school’s cancer center.