Watson the Medic and the End of the Information Economy

Fri, Feb 18, 2011

Commentary

Recent posts on IBM’s Watson applied to medical diagnosis (see this article for example) show how advanced computers of the future will do to the information economy what computers have already done to manufacturing, namely make information processing so efficient that it becomes a small part of our economy and providing further evidence that we are rushing towards The Economy of Meaning.

Medicine is a stalwart of the information industry, since in effect diagnosis and prescription is heavily information driven, and the advances have forced doctors to read more and more to stay on top of new developments.  A computer such as Watson will automate much of this, and eventually make information processing so effective that it occupies almost none of a physicians time.  So what is a physician left with?  The human aspects of her work, in other words the activity that creates meaning for her patient.

This same technology can also be applied to every other information processing profession, and considering that Watson is a very early such computer, it is not hard to imagine far more powerful computers of the future doing much much more.

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