IBM’s Watson AI Platform Is Not Curing Cancer

(p. B1) Can Watson cure cancer?

That’s what International Business Machines Corp. IBM 0.03% asked soon after its artificial-intelligence system beat humans at the quiz show “Jeopardy!” in 2011. Watson could read documents quickly and find patterns in data. Could it match patient information with the latest in medical studies to deliver personalized treatment recommendations?

“Watson represents a technology breakthrough that can help physicians improve patient outcomes,” said Herbert Chase, a professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia University, in a 2012 IBM press release.

Six years and billions of dollars later, the diagnosis for Watson is gloomy.

More than a dozen IBM partners and clients have halted or shrunk Watson’s oncology-related projects. Watson cancer applications have had limited impact on patients, according to dozens of interviews with medical centers, companies and doctors who have used it, as well as documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

In many cases, the tools didn’t add much value. In some cases, Watson wasn’t accurate. Watson can be tripped up by a lack of data in rare or recurring cancers, and treatments are evolving faster than Watson’s human trainers can update the system. Dr. Chase of Columbia said he withdrew as an adviser after he grew disappointed in IBM’s direction for marketing the technology.

No published research shows Watson improving patient outcomes.

For the full story, see:

Daniela Hernandez and Ted Greenwald. “IBM Has a Watson Dilemma; Big Blue promised its AI platform would be a big step forward in treating cancer. But after pouring billions into the project, the diagnosis is gloomy.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Aug. 11, 2018): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date and title as the print version.)

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