IS WATSON REALLY HAL?

Posted June 1, 2011

IS WATSON REALLY HAL?

When I was younger I used to watch Jeopardy! religiously. As an undergrad at the University of Michigan I even applied to take the test to be a contestant. I was scheduled to take the test in New York over spring break my senior year. I remember gas was awfully expensive and I didn’t have a place to stay. Maybe I got cold feet. I went to Ft. Lauderdale instead.

Though I haven’t watched with any regularity in recent years, it is fun to tune in for the college shows and the battles of the past champions. So it was with some interest I followed the shows involving Watson, the IBM computer that slaughtered the field of returning champions.

In addition to being amazed I felt a little uneasy. I was impressed by the Stanley Kubrick film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the late 60’s. I remember seeing it in a theatre with my friend, Ned, before either of us was old enough drive. The eerie thought of Hal 9000, the dispassionate computer, came to mind immediately, watching Watson.

And though I still have no idea what the last 20 minutes of Kubrick’s film was about, I am happy to report that Watson is being prepared to serve mankind. Watson’s manufacturer, IBM, has modified the computer for a recent demonstration project to suggest diagnoses for medical students, based upon data it is fed.

Better than “I’m sorry, Dave, but I can’t do that.”

A recent Archives of General Psychiatry report on bi-polar disorder was summarized by aol. 4 signs aol described as “surprising” were outlined. I’ve seen these classic symptoms of bi-polar disorder for years in my practice.

They are:

1) reckless spending

2) super charged sex drive

3) alcohol or drug abuse

4) skimping on shut-eye

The bottom line is those with bi-polar disorder are prone to poor, impulsive decisions, cycling between high (manic) periods and low (depressive) periods, and tend to self-medicate.