Jun 13 2011

Watson to Extend Longevity?!

Remember the IBM computer named “Watson” who beat the all-time champs of TV’s Jeopardy gameshow? Guess what Watson has been up to since?  Hint; your doctor may be tapping into it in a few years…

Watson is being fed a steady diet of medical knowledge including recent journals. He (she/it?)  is being groomed to assist medical professionals – but is likely about 2 years from a practical and safe application.  But thinking 3-5 years down the road, the implications are mind-blowing.

Imagine every doctor with an internet connection or iphone-like device being able to tap into the most up-to-date medical  information and treatments – the best knowledge that is available worldwide! Imagine being able to immediately tap into treatment suggestions coming from the latest (i.e. 5 minutes ago) medical literature that also optimizes for the specific patient at hand.

Recently, Watson wowed an Associated Press audience with his abilities in diagnostics and treatment suggestions for a fictional patient with an eye problem – eventually arriving at a correct diagnosis of Lymes Disease.   It is estimated that the total amount of medical knowledge and information doubles every 4-6 years. How could any one doctor keep up?

Another recent story I came across online, related how one scientist had posted his entire genome on the internet. In part, he was raising awareness of the risks that insurance companies (…or maybe even future employers?) may discriminate based on someone’s genome. Would you get turned down for insurance if the report showed a higher probability of certain diseases?

However, what also struck me is the cost of getting the full readout on your own genome will likely quickly drop from the current approximate $200,000US to something more affordable.  As medical technology advances in it’s ability to use the information within this dense DNA data-set, and transmits that info to your doctor’s Watson-enhanced diagnostic device, then DNA-specific personalized medical treatent will become widely available.  Yet another log on the fire of extended longevity.

Startling human/machine collaborations will show up in more and more fields – AND will likely be front and centre in our lives sooner then we think.

May you live (really) long and prosper!



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