Dr. Watson - Come Here - I Need You

Watson will soon be diagnosing medical cases – and not just the everyday cases, either.

The next time you go to the doctor, you may be dealing with a supercomputer rather than a human. Watson, the groundbreaking artificial intelligence machine from IBM that took on chess champions and Jeopardy! contestants alike, is about to get its first real-world application in the healthcare sector. In partnership with health benefits company WellPoint, Watson will soon be diagnosing medical cases – and not just the everyday cases, either. The vision is for Watson to be working hand-in-surgical-glove with oncologists to diagnose and treat cancer in patients.


Watson's_avatar The WellPoint clinical trial, which could roll out as early as 2012, is exciting proof that supercomputing intelligence, when properly harnessed, can lead to revolutionary breakthroughs in complex fields like medicine. At a time when talk about reforming the healthcare system is primarily about the creation of digital health records, the integration of Watson into the healthcare industry could really shake things up. By some accounts, Watson is able to process as many as 200 million pages of medical information in seconds – giving it a number-crunching head start on doctors for diagnosing cases. In one test case cited by WellPoint, Watson was able to diagnose a rare form of an illness within seconds – a case that had left doctors baffled.

While having super-knowledgeable medical experts on call is exciting, it also raises several thorny issues. At what point – if ever - would you ask for a “second opinion” on your medical condition from a human doctor? Will “Watson” ever be included in the names of physicians included in your HMO listings? And, perhaps most importantly, can supercomputers ever provide the type of bedside manner that we are accustomed to in our human doctors?

Androidselectricsheep This last question has attracted much attention from medical practitioners and health industry thought leaders alike. Abraham Verghese, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as bestselling author, has been particularly outspoken about the inability of computers to provide the type of medical handholding that we are used to from human doctors. Verghese claims that the steady digitization of records and clinical data is reducing every patient to an "iPatient" – simply a set of digital 1’s and 0’s that can be calculated, crunched, and computed. Forget whether androids dream of digital sheep – can they take a digital Hippocratic Oath?

Given that the cost of healthcare is simply too high, as a society we will need to accept some compromises. Once the healthcare industry is fully digitized, supercomputers like Watson could result in a more cost-effective way to sift through the ever-growing amount of medical information and provide real-time medical analysis that could save lives. If Watson also results in a significant improvement in patient treatment as well, it’s clear that the world of medicine will never be the same again. Right now, IBM envisions Watson supplementing – not actually replacing - doctors. But the time is coming when nurses across the nation will be saying, “Watson -- Come Here –- I Need You,” instead of turning to doctors whenever they need a sophisticated medical evaluation of a patient.

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Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.

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Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod

Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.

Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome

PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.

Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young

Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.

Finalist: Practera - Nikki James

Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.

Thank you to our judges!

Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.

Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.

Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.

Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.

Again, thank you to our incredible expert judges.

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