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The Watson Service

By Steve Jones,

The Watson project from IBM continues to grow and expand in new ways tha twe might never have thought of a few years ago. After winning Jeopardy, the compuer software moved into the medical fields and was sent to college last year. However now Watson is coming to the masses, or at least a portion of them. The Watson Engagement Advisor is being put to the test as a customer service worker. From banks to cell phone providers to insurance companies, the Watson service is poised to advise and interact with consumers by providing advice, troubleshooting and more.

Perhaps the age of the machines is really upon us. If the Watson service can do as good a job as humans, on average, then it becomes a matter of time before many companies decide it's more efficient to replace large numbers of their human staff with the service. As the text to speech engines improve and computer power grows, we might not be able to distinguish these machines from many of humans they replace.

I don't know if I think this is good or bad, but it's likely to come true in some sectors. While Watson may not have the creativity or flexibility of humans, it also won't have the memory lapses, bad days, and inherent prejudices of people. I suspect some people will have poor experiences with the service, but most will not and at some point it will becomes more likely to interact with a Watson-like service than a human for many service oriented tasks.

I can even see that affecting us in technology. How long before Microsoft has a similar service that might troubleshoot issues with products, perhaps even working with developers to find bugs and workarounds. I'd imagine that this service would be a much better way to actually triage and route issues to Microsoft developers than the Connect system.

I don't know that such a system would replace many developers, but I suspect it could easily learn over time to give you advice, such as which SSIS component might best improve a particular workflow. From there it might not be a large leap to have many CRUD applications generated by an interactive Watson programmer. I'm not sure what would be more scary then. That the machines will take some of our jobs, or that they have the intelligence to do so.

Steve Jones

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