�I�m recognizing the importance of learning new behavior and beginning to question my future role in society as a result of the leadership demonstrated by your organization. The donation of these new computers has caused me to think about the need for me to reach out to other people in communities around the world and share what I have learned.� ~ Roger B.,Ottawa Mission Client
As �more than a shelter,� The Ottawa Mission helps Ottawa�s most vulnerable residents manage through difficult times and get back on their feet. As a volunteer in the Mission�s kitchen for the past six years, I�ve met these people and heard their stories first-hand.>
How fortunate, then, that during its Centennial, IBM helped me help The Mission write a different story � one that�s both heartening and humbling.
"Roger is thriving"
A year ago, Roger was too shy to look anyone in the eye. Yet in a few months he�ll be ready to work with others as a certified electromechanical technician, installing and testing machines with complex hydraulic, pneumatic and electric controls.
Roger�s personal development has come through The Mission�s Essential Skills program, which has helped him learn to listen, give feedback and hold a conversation. His education has come through The Mission�s new Distance Education modules from George Brown College, made possible through a Centennial Grant from IBM.
�His story moves you no matter what�
Last June, as part of IBM�s Centennial Celebration of Service activities, I helped organize a day-long Workforce Skills seminar at The Mission. With the help of its Client Services team, resources from the IBM On Demand Community and close to 30 generous colleagues and friends, we introduced Mission clients to workplace culture and behaviors, helped them brush up their resumes and practice their interview skills � an activity that for some was entirely new. In the Kitchen, team members served hot meals and prepared hundreds of sandwiches while in the basement, more volunteers sorted through an Everest of donated clothing.
For our efforts, The Mission was awarded a cash grant of $15,000, which it used to replace the aging machines in its computer lab.
The result? �Roger is thriving,� says Jennifer Crawford, Manager of Client Services at The Ottawa Mission. �His story moves you no matter what.�
�We�d never bought 13 computers before�
�We�re over the moon about the new computers,� says Samantha Laprade, Legacy Giving Officer with The Ottawa Mission Foundation. But, she adds, the opportunity did throw them for a loop. �We�d never bought 13 computers before. We were at a bit of a loss as to how to go about it.�
Help came from an unlikely source. Tom Donohue, The Mission�s Chaplain, is also a former systems administrator with telco provider Telus. With Donohue�s help, The Mission outfitted its computer lab with 13 new Lenovo ThinkCentre M71e towers, each configured with enough processing power, memory and software to meet the needs of The Mission�s now-expanded offerings.
A new world of learning
The new towers open a new world of learning for clients. Now they can study a wide range of topics including bookkeeping, hospitality and tourism management, robotics, geographic information systems and electromechanics � Roger�s current field of study.
The computers also meet a longstanding goal of the Client Services team. �We�d had this in our education proposal for over a year, but the modules weren�t compatible with our old machines,� says Crawford. �The experience would have been extremely tedious to navigate.�
The new experience is exactly the opposite. In a thank-you letter to IBM, Roger writes: �The new computers have transformed the way that I process information and match my preferred learning styles, which are solitary, social and visual. �
A modern approach to adult education
Crawford says the new machines bring The Mission more in line with current trends in adult education. �Almost everything in adult education is through distance learning. We�re bringing opportunities to our clients that the rest of the world already has.� she says. �With the old machines, it felt like �poor machines for poor people,� and that�s something we want to move away from.�
Roger is taking full advantage of the new technology. In his letter, he writes: �The enhanced internet browsing capability enables me to research text, capture it and paste into a speed reader in order to improve my reading recall rate. My friend and I are taking a computer-based electronics technician course that uses the DVD capabilities of the new computers to create a virtual electronics lab simulator on the computer monitors.�
Faster machines mean more sessions for more clients
Crawford adds that because the machines are so fast, clients can finish their courses in half the time. Their reliability means volunteers can lead job and resume skills sessions once a week instead of once a month. �It�s so much less frustrating to have computers that actually work,� she observes. �Even for things as simple as email, clients were asking for help because the computer was so slow. Now, instead of waiting for pages to load, clients can use their time to send emails or look for jobs.�
Roger is seeing additional benefits. In his letter, he continues: �I�m using the new IBM ThinkCentre technology to learn more effectively in school and to become more organized at home. I�m accomplishing more office work in less time and saving natural resources by creating digital notebooks utilizing the professional software that was installed on these new computers.�
Reconnecting with family
The new computers also help clients beyond their education. A new ThinkCentre has been installed in the lobby of The Mission�s Client Services Centre, where clients can access basic Web features like email and social networking.
Laprade says the speedier machines mean clients can make the most of their 15-minute time slots. �Fifteen minutes may not be much to be or you, but that may be the only time clients have to connect with family.�
Part of a bigger picture
Throughout IBM's Centennial year, IBMers in 120 countries donated more than 3.2 million volunteer hours to more than 5,000 projects around the globe.
The Centennial Celebration of Service activities were intended to not only celebrate IBM's long heritage of community involvement, but also to take those activities to the next level � and the more than 1,000 projects which have been started so far this year is evidence of such progress.
Last year at this time, I was proud that IBM valued my dedication to helping Ottawa�s less fortunate residents. Having helped contribute to Roger�s success story, I�m doubly so that my values and IBM�s vision are so closely aligned.
Like Deep Blue in 1997, IBM took on Watson as its latest Grand Challenge � the ambitious research projects that push science in ways not thought possible. Should they succeed, as did Deep Blue, they reveal new insights into the power of computing, showcase the expertise of IBM Researchers and open new avenues of business and technological innovation.
For this Grand Challenge, IBM chose the scientific field of Question and Answering (�QA�). In building Watson, IBM researchers were to build a computing system that rivals a human�s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
It wouldn�t be easy. And it would be would be tested on prime-time TV.
The Jeopardy! format provided the ultimate test of Watson's abilities. As anyone who�s watched the show could tell you, the game�s clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles and other complexities of language. Humans are good at this, computers are not. Plus, the questions could touch on any conceivable subject, and Watson was limited to what its creators put into its memory.
Building Watson involved asking many additional challenging questions: What semantic technologies would be needed to understand unstructured data? How do you build a system based on information as opposed to transactions? How do you build a system that can learn instead of being programmed?
Over a period of four years, they fed Watson mountains of information, including text from the World Book Encyclopedia, Wikipedia and books from Project Gutenberg. All told, Watson held the equivalent of about one million books worth of information. The team also wrote (and rewrote) the algorithms that let Watson break down each question into its key components and assess its confidence in each of the potential answers. To power Watson, they chose a cluster of Power 750� computers�ten racks holding 90 servers, for a total of 2880 processor cores running DeepQA software and storage. Then, through 55 sparring matches with former Jeopardy! champions, they tested and tweaked, tested and tweaked, tested and tweaked.
New frontiers of analytics
I wrote about Watson a lot. Specifically, I was interested in what it meant for business analytics. There�s something beautiful � and no doubt valuable to a business � about data that comes in neat and tidy rows. Sadly, little about business is either neat or tidy. Now, a full 80 percent of an organization�s data is unstructured; volumes are growing at an exponential rate. Organizations need to understand not only at what their internal systems are telling them, but what their customers, partners and the market is telling them, too. The problem is that their computing systems aren�t set up to handle this new reality. If Watson could interpret the twisted logic of a Daily Double and answer with confidence, the analytical possibilities for interpreting and unlocking the business value of unstructured data would be endless. If you could use language, you could use Watson.
Like a knife through butter
The Jeopardy! Challenge aired over two days starting on February 14 and for those two days I marveled as Watson ran through the categories like a hot knife through butter. By the end of the first day it had accumulated $35,734 to Rutter�s $10,400 and Jennings� $4,800. By the end of the game, Watson had racked up $77,147, besting Jennings' $24,000 and Rutter�s $21,60. IBM donated the $1M grand prize to charity, with equal donations to World Vision and the World Community Grid. Likewise, Jennings and Rutter donated half of their winnings ($300,000 and $200,000, respectively) to charities of their choice..
Afterwards, Jennings would observe: [T]here's no shame in losing to silicon [...] After all, I don't have 2,880 processor cores and 15 terabytes of reference works at my disposal�nor can I buzz in with perfect timing whenever I know an answer. My puny human brain, just a few bucks worth of water, salts, and proteins, hung in there just fine against a jillion-dollar supercomputer. Jennings was also surprised to learn that he was, in fact, the actual inspiration for project:
Watching you on Jeopardy! is what inspired the whole project," one IBM engineer told me, consolingly. "And we looked at your games over and over, your style of play. There's a lot of you in Watson." I understood then why the engineers wanted to beat me so badly: To them, I wasn't the good guy, playing for the human race. That was Watson's role, as a symbol and product of human innovation and ingenuity."
Putting Watson to work
The lights had barely dimmed on the studio before discussions turned to commercial applications for Watson. In keeping with its Grand Challenge, IBM chose healthcare, and announcedIBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare at last October�s Information On Demand (IOD). At the press briefing, newly appointed IBM GM of Watson Solutions Manoj Saxena said IBM chose healthcare first because of its ability to make a direct improvement in peoples� lives: �Watson has tremendous potential for applications that improve the efficiency of care and reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment by enabling clinicians with access to the best clinical data the moment they need it."
Consider the stats:
There are 12,000 diseases in the world; some take years to diagnose and treat.
The volume of medical information doubles every five years.
81 percent of doctors spend five hours or less per month reading medical journals.
One in five patients suffers from preventable readmissions, which represent $17.4 billion of the current $102.6 billion U.S. Medicare budget.
Watson will transform for the better the way healthcare is administered, delivered and paid for, said Saxena. Watson's ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process vast amounts of information to suggest options targeted to a patient's circumstances, can assist physicians and nurses, in identifying the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for their patients.
It�s been fascinating for me to follow Watson�s progress from game show contestant to business solution. Watson adds another important dimension to the interplay between technology and humanity. In focusing on healthcare out of the gate, we saw the mission of IBM reflected once again � not only to make a profit, but to make a difference. On a smarter planet, Watson may soon be an indispensable asset to the medical profession, making a positive difference in the lives of thousands of patients.
Back in January, IBM Chair, President & CEO Sam Palmisano called 2011 �a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [for IBMers] to reconnect with our company...what we stand for and value... [to] show the world what makes IBM and IBMers unique.�
For my own part, I was proud to lead a group of 30-plus IBMers and friends in a skills building workshop series at the Ottawa Mission. Our efforts led to a $15,000 grant to help the Mission bolster its education, employment and skills training for my city�s most vulnerable and at-risk citizens. On a lighter note, my post on the IBM Selectric set off an email trail that connected collector/restorer Jordan Armstrong with an increasingly rare motor clutch bushing (IBM part no. 1236572) that he couldn�t find anywhere else:
As I am sure you know, the Selectric is an incredibly durable machine, one that with proper care and maintenance could last practically forever, which is my hope. With the Selectric I recently turning 50, I hope to have and restore many more machines up to it's 100th birthday. If I should be so lucky. Could you please forward this message to someone, anyone, who perhaps would know of a supply in some deep dark corner of an IBM warehouse?
"Change everything except your beliefs"
In 1962, then-CEO Tom Watson Jr. remarked that �to survive and achieve success, a company must be willing to change everything about itself except its beliefs.� I�d argue you could apply the same idea to your own career. With Transformation as a dominant theme in the Centennial celebrations, I made important changes of my own.
Most importantly, I changed jobs. After nearly a decade in Business Analytics, I made the transition to a new role with IBM Software. So far, I believe, the move has paid off. My new role brings with it new and expanded responsibilities. As a result I�ve taken big steps to broaden my perspective on our business and develop my skills in innovative new ways. The past six months have been phenomenal.
The biggest transformation, however, is yet to come. Next year I will participate in the IBM Corporate Service Corps. Modeled on the Peace Corps, the �CSC� pulls together diverse teams of IBMers from around the world and sends them for a month to emerging markets around the world. While there they work in communities with NGOs and local leaders to improve their economies and make their cities smarter. Many participants call it the most significant event of their lives. I can�t wait.
I, too, believe the company�s best days are yet to come. Warren Buffet has his reasons; here are mine:
Compelling vision: In the most unsettled and uncertain age in decades, our ongoing Smarter Planet strategy offers a way for companies, governments and IBMers to solve the toughest challenges we face as a society. Like no other company, IBM understands that our world is growing increasingly instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. Like no other company, IBM views the confluence of these trends as a tremendous opportunity to transform and improve the way the world literally works. From New York to Stockholm and within industries as diverse as retail, healthcare and banking, IBMers redoubled their efforts with clients, partners and community organizations to make their processes, systems and people work smarter.
Relentless innovation:Watson � the latest IBM �Grand Challenge� - captured the public�s imagination when it bested Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, the two most successful Jeopardy! contestants ever to pick up the signaling button. But Watson was no mere novelty. IBM�s value proposition is to create and provide innovative solutions to our clients - solutions they can�t get from anyone else. Watson�s unique union of natural language processing and computational prowess opens new avenues of potential for IT architectures and advanced analytics to solve previously insoluble problems. Today, a mere eight months after its prime-time debut, Watson is at work in a real-world situation, sorting helping clinicians in Texas deliver patient care by sorting through and analyzing reams of medical information with ease.
Passionate people: IBM is most commonly thought of as a technology company. But what made the Centennial remarkable was its human dimension. The first Centennial video, 100 X 100 told the story of IBM�s technological innovation not in arcane terms but in human ones. As the film progresses from clocks to punch cards to Deep Blue and Watson, we see human stories � full of risk, courage, even humor. In the second, They Were There, retired IBMers recount stories of their own experiences and how through IBM they were able to change the way the world works.
The final video, A Culture of Service, showcases how IBMers use their skills and abilities to make a positive contribution to the world. The quality and commitment of IBMers has for me been the biggest discovery. Rare is the week when I don�t meet another exceptionally talented and committed individual.
Carry it forward
It's been a remarkable year for me at IBM. I am tremendously proud of this company and what it�s achieved. I am unduly excited about the possibilities it offers me to learn and grow. At the same time I�ve been humbled by the tremendous generosity, enthusiasm and dedication that my colleagues have shown me in helping IBM move forward toward its goal of making a positive difference in my own backyard. As it enters its second century, IBM can draw from the lessons of its first for the confidence and perseverance it will need to succeed. Through my experience of its Centennial, I know I can draw on these lessons to succeed in my own career as well.
IOD started with kids playing with jigsaw puzzles and ended with naked baseball players.
I dare you to say that analytics isn't fun.
And transformative. And an absolute priority should you want to survive in these uncertain times. Over the past three days we've all seen and learned so much that it's sometimes difficult to recall the key themes. So I've presented them for you here, built as we've gone along learning to turn insight into action:
3. Commit to change, embrace the new: Last year's assumptions and last month's targets are history; focus on what will take you forward. Commitment to change has helped IBM survive for a full 100 years. Billy Beane overturned an entrenched century-old culture to redefine value and change the way his game was played. Your presence at IOD attests to your desire to change, too.
4. Paging Dr. Watson: Hospital readmissions are punitive for the provider and counterproductive for the patient. Incomplete data drives incorrect diagnoses. Medical errors cost real human lives. With our health care partners we've put Watson to work with real-world solutions to reverse these trends and eliminate these errors. With Watson's help doctors can better understand each patient in startling new detail and treat each patient in effective new ways.
5. Don't mess with Billy Beane's mom.If you're writing a book about a baseball GM who swears a lot, be prepared for his mom's withering glare. Her son just doesn't talk like that.
6. No industry is immune from disruption. Urbanization. Changing citizen and customer expectations. Economic uncertainty. Increased regulations. Lots and lots of data. All are interconnected; all are hitting you on every side, all the time. Your task is to quantify the impact, assess the risks and harness the opportunities in new and productive ways. On a planet that is instrumented, interconnected and intelligent there is no domain that is untouched by these forces. There is no domain where analytics - and IBM - cannot help. At IOD you've seen how we're doing precisely this.
7. Jeff Jonas is evil. Just look at the guy. Look at the way he dresses. Luckily, he's the charismatic, smart kind of evil you can't help but listen to, because you can feel yourself getting smarter yourself the longer � and faster - he talks. Frankly, I'm glad he's on our side.
8. Got social? It's time to get serious about social media analytics. There's enough data out there and enough computational power to build predictive customer loyalty models based on blogs and tweets alone. That's along, long way from zip codes. Need the tools to get started? We have them, too.
9. Congratulation, Ginni. Our soon-to-be President and CEO will take charge with IBM operating from a solid foundation and 'at the top of its game.' She's successful, she's thoughtful. She gets things done.
10. It's business, and it's personal.This is the age of the empowered consumer. They're demanding, they're patient and they're in control of your brand. If you want to win their business � and keep them coming back � you'll need to know more about them than where they live. The data to do this is out there and so are the tools. The choice of how and when to use them is entirely up to you.
11. Kudos to the Mandalay Bay staff for keeping us fed and caffeinated. Greeting 11,000 bleary-eyed conference goers with a friendly smile before 9 AM is no easy task; yet to a person you outdo yourselves every single year.
Well, that's it from my end for this year's edition of Information On Demand. As of right now, I'm taking what I believe to be a very necessary vacation. I'll return refreshed and recharged in two weeks. Safe travels, and see you next year.
You'll see some of these recent acquisitions next month if you're heading down to Information On Demand next month. It boasts the biggest EXPO in the IBM Software galaxy and ample opportunities to meet product and solution experts, so not only will you discover the value that these acquisitions can bring to your organizations, you'll see how that value is augmented and extended within a broader IBM software solution. On a Smarter Planet, the smartest companies will win. So whether you're in retail, banking, education or simply want to learn more about analytics I'd urge you to do two things: read the report and register now.
THINKing about Leadership, for a Smarter Planet
IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano opened this week's IBM THINK Forum in New York by calling for a new type of leadership. Palmisano noted that although competition drives progress and innovation, it's not sufficient in an interconnected world. In this new model, Palmisano said, "the wild west of competition needs to be complemented and tempered by far more collaboration across old boundaries: across academic disciplines, industries, nations; even amongst our most fierce competitors. Palmisano also commented on the lessons IBM has learned over its first century, lessons that will enable it to survive into the next:
The Forum drew many influential - not to mention thoughtful - attendees including Sir Howard Stringer, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Sony Corporation, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and His Excellency Felipe Calder�n Hinojosa, President of Mexico. Rob Enderle of Forbes wrote about the conference here, and you can see more videos here.
In addition to the Forum, IBM has also installed the THINK Exhibit, a visual exploration of making the world work better, in Lincoln Center in New York. The exhibit takes visitors on a journey through a series of experiences, including:
The Data Wall: Striking patterns undulating on a 123-foot digital wall, visualizing live data streaming from the city�s nearby systems, like traffic details, untapped solar energy, water leakage through the city�s main aqueduct, air quality and credit card transactions.
Immersive Film: An immersive film displayed across 40 seven-foot, vertical media panels that tells stories of progress, including space exploration, personalized medicine and biotechnology.
Interactive Experiences: After the film, the 40 media panels switch to interactive touch screens, becoming a forest of discovery. Visitors can explore the various ways science and technology have improved the world, and the tools and methods used to drive progress, showcasing inspiring examples of systemic progress around the world.
The Icons of Progress: IBM�s top 100 milestones, including the PC, the first computerized airline reservation system and the Apollo Missions. Through graphics and stories, the icons tell the story of big risks, lessons learned and discoveries that have transformed the way we work and live.
The Exhibit is open to the public from September 23 to October 23, and smaller scale exhibits are installed at 14 IBM locations around the world, including IOD.
Take, for example, its earliest advertisements for tabulating machines and electric timekeepers - produced even before before the company adopted the moniker IBM. Few would argue that they're not far removed from the promise of our current business analytics solutions:"The Electric Tabulating and Accounting Machines analyze the facts of a business. They supply executives with the details of sales, costs and operating data, permitting the formulation of policies and assisting in the proper control of business. These machines compile data quickly and with a great saving in clerical expense, furnishing reports which it would be impractical to obtain by manual methods."
At first blush, progress often brings a positive connotation. It suggests forward motion toward an ideal; it suggests an outcome or result that is more desirable than the current state. For a technology company - particularly with a reach and portfolio as broad and diverse as that of IBM - the positive aspects of progress are near-paramount.
But not everyone sees progress - technological or otherwise - in the same light. Sometimes the effects of what some view as progress are not immediately apparent or understood. Sometimes the goals being pursued are poorly explained. Some view progress through the lens of loss.
How do we reconcile these two opposing views?
First, we should accept that technology will continue to evolve - and if you read Kevin Kelly's book What Technology Wants, there's no reason to suspect that it won't. If you accept that premise, then our response to its effects must evolve as well. To that end, I propose that we frame the discussion about progress in three ways:
First, progress must be meaningful. Improvements in efficiency, speed, and power must serve a purpose. Their effects must be designed with their effect on the planet and its people in mind.
Next, progress must be measured. Measurement brings clarity to ambiguous situations and provides us the means to understand tradeoffs, alternatives and possibilities.
Third, progress must be managed. Computers and the interconnected systems they drive exert an ever-increasing influence over more and more aspects of our lives. That is not to say, however, that they control our lives. Nor should they.
IBM enters its second century dedicated to progress - not only through its technology, but through the ideas and ideals that its technology is deployed to promote. As IBMers we have a tremendous opportunity - some would even say a responsibility - to pursue progress to make our world a better place. We may never agree on the precise nature of progress. But with the guidelines I've outlined above I hope we can make the discussion a productive and, dare I say, progressive one.
Thanks to IBM, tomorrow, I'll be taking the day off work to package emergency food supplies at the Phoenix St. Mary's Food Bank. When I was first considering joining the IBM team, I was impressed by IBM's commitment to make the world a better place through diversity, green thinking, and good citizenry.
I loved how IBM encouraged its employees to give generously to great causes and local community efforts, and even initiated the "Day of Caring" to encourage all IBMers to take a day off work to serve at a local charity or organization. IBM also created an On Demand Community portal to help IBMers find local service opportunities and the Employee Charitable Contribution Campaign to provide a payroll reduction service for IBMers choosing to fund charities and other organizations. Read more on the Smarter Planet blog.
During its centennial birthday year, IBM took it up yet another notch with the Celebration of Service: IBM's Celebration of Service honors our employees, retirees, families and friends in their commitment to volunteer service. It supports their efforts with resources, a program of new and expanded grants, and the opportunity to pledge their participation in a global effort during 2011 � with a special focus on June 15, when IBMers will bring their skills into thousands of communities worldwide.
One thing that IBM gets is that when its employees are happy, so is the workplace. What makes humans happy? Being able to make a difference. Contributing to a greater good. Learning and becoming a better person. The pictures below show lots of happy people getting to experience just these things.
For me, tomorrow, it's St. Mary's Food Bank, but in the coming months, I'll also be volunteering with the Habitat for Humanity, ValleyLife, and other Phoenix organizations. The opportunity to give goes well beyond June 15. Take a moment to explore the Celebration of Service site to find ways you can make a difference in your local community.
A little over fifteen years ago, IBM set out to change the face of the software industry by
bringing together a collection of high-quality software that would help clients solve their most
pressing business problems.
As customer needs changed, new approaches were adopted. Unique partnerships were formed. Dozens of acquisitions were signed. And inside software labs around the world, breakthrough discoveries were made.
This leads to where we are today, with all of IBM�s different software products and solutions working together as never before to help clients get to a smarter and much more efficient way of doing business � in whatever industry they fall.
As IBM Software has discovered, to get the most value for its own business and customers it needs to continuously reinvigorate its strategy and technologies through multiple, creative approaches and channels.
Through a series of interviews with Software pioneers and leaders, these two videos explore IBM Software's continuing pursuit of value and innovation across several decades.
As you know, we're pretty excited here at IBM since 2011 marks IBM's centennial birthday, and we have all sorts of cool activities planned to celebrate throughout the year. You can learn more about these activities at the IBM100 Web site.
One fun new social media activity that Kate Motzer, IBM Centennial social media butterfly, recently started on Twitter is a "Name That Icon" contest that will run on select Fridays until September, 2011.
I could tell this was a tool for grownups. This was a serious machine, built to do serious, grown-up work. That�s why my library put it in the reference department � that quiet, serious room where quiet serious people did quiet, serious things.
I knew because each hour I used it cost me 25 cents. I was only 12 years old. But when I first flipped the switch on that big black beauty and brought it to life I knew I had entered a new stage. From then on, all my essays would be proudly and impeccably typed.
The IBM Selectric � yesterday�s IBM Centennial Icon of Progress � was introduced in 1961 and immediately disrupted the typewriter market. Suddenly and almost overnight, people saw unprecedented increases in the speed, accuracy and flexibility at their disposal to create the written word.
Don't believe me? Check out the charming video commercial below.
Like the rest of my peers, I learned to type on a manual machine - and very quickly I learned its shortcomings. It was always loud. It jammed when I typed too quickly. It made errors nearly impossible to correct.
The Selectric changed all that.
This thing was fast. Faster than anything I�d ever used. That little silver ball jumped excitedly at even the slightest touch. This thing was alive. And fun. And a blast to use. And after I had used it, I�d never go back.
The Selectric is yet another example of that remarkable through line connecting the IBM achievements of the past with the innovations of today � and the remarkable effectiveness of the IBM approach to making us and our world work better. It�s a willingness to bring the best people, the best thinking and the the best ideas to bear on challenges others say can�t be solved.
Turns out there's a little bit of O-town know-how in the code coursing through Watson's massive brain. On the eve of Wednesday's finale, Vito Pilieci of the Ottawa Citizen reported that a team from the Ottawa IBM lab contributed to the Java Virtual Machine that helps move masses of information through Watson's internal networks at astoundingly high speeds.
�The team here in Ottawa has been developing virtual machine technology for years,� said Rob White, director of the Ottawa software lab site. �It was very natural that the Java Virtual Machine would underpin the Watson project.� The Virtual Machine is a programming language that routes information quickly through a computer network. In effect, the employees at the Ottawa labs provided a central nervous system for Watson allowing it to react quickly much like a person feels a pin prick in the finger the instant it happens thanks to nerves sending a pain signal to the brain."
The team celebrated with a "Watson Watch Party" at Oliver's pub at Carleton University and entertained questions from curious computer science students after the show.
Left to right, they are: Andrew Low, Rick Kenny, John Duimovich, Karl Taylor and Charlie Gracie. In front with the J9 t-shirt is Ken Walker. Congrats, guys!
I ask that question not only of Watson itself, but of ourselves in the long-running and fascinating relationship between humans and the machines they create. Both questions are inextricably linked, and both have multiple answers. I�ll posit one for each:
First, Watson could go into production quite quickly. Many of its components are currently available and several industries � healthcare and finance, for example � are ideal candidates for first-phase proof-of-concept deployments. As the global economy emerges from the turmoil of the past three years, these industries � not to mention the various functions within them � will be more in need of answers and insights than ever before.
As for the second question, Watson could usher in a new and exciting chapter in the story. Now that the lights have come down on the Jeopardy! set, it� s no longer man versus machine, but man with machine. The former may have made for entertaining television, but it�s the latter that we must focus on now.
To that end, I�m inviting you to tune into today's TED Talk on the Future of Watson at 11:30 AM ET featuring members of the research team. You can submit your questions using #ibmwatson or #askwatson I'll also invite you to add your voice to our ongoing exchange on LinkedIn. Finally, I'll leave you with a few quotes from the people who put us down this exciting new path. Ours is becoming a Smarter Planet. Watson may bring us there sooner than we think.
�This was a big accomplishment for people.� Dr. David Gondek
�I would have thought that technology like this was years away.� Brad Rutter
"I think we saw something important today.� Ken Jennings
"Wow. This is history." Dr. Jennifer Chu-Carroll
"This is about taking technology to solve problems that people really care about." Dr. David Ferrucci
Four years of research and the future of analytics are unveiled tonight at 7:30 PM Eastern, as Watson takes on Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on a special three-day run of Jeopardy!
As of this writing, Watson remains in the lead in the Web visitors' poll at 55 percent. However, Brad Rutter has made significant gains at the expense of Ken Jennings, moving from single digits a few weeks ago to 26 percent, seven points ahead of Jennings. No doubt these numbers will shift again based on the outcomes of tonight's episode.
It's been a fascinating and fun ride so far, and if you're curious to know what Watson means for your own analytics-driven future, here are seven things you can do before tuning in: