Watson AI Tasked With Improving Africa via "Project Lucy"

| 7 Feb 2014 19:32

Watson creator IBM says the AI will be able to analyze large amounts of data and put it to use to find medical, economical and agricultural problems.

The Watson AI, perhaps most famous for winning a Jeopardy match against two human opponents in 2011, is soon going to be tackling a much more complicated topic - Africa. Watson developer IBM has announced "Project Lucy," named after the earliest known human descendant, which will use the AI's considerable processing power to gather data and develop solutions to the economic, agricultural and health problems plaguing several African nations.

"In the last decade, Africa has been a tremendous growth story, yet the continent's challenges, stemming from population growth, water scarcity, disease, low agricultural yield and other factors are impediments to inclusive economic growth," wrote Kamal Bhattacharya, director of IBM's Research - Africa team, on the Project Lucy website. "With the ability to learn from emerging patterns and discover new correlations, Watson's cognitive capabilities hold enormous potential in Africa - helping it to achieve in the next two decades what today's developed markets have achieved over two centuries."

Over at the BBC, Uyi Stewart, chief scientist of IBM's Research - Africa, said Watson will be able to crunch an enormous amount of data and provide information on topics including illness diagnoses and medical treatments. And if that isn't sci-fi enough, Stewart said that Watson will even be capable of answering questions posed to it. "It is also able to reason. One of its key functions is natural language processing," he said. African schools with poor computer resources will also be able to link into the cloud-based Watson system using smartphones or similar devices, Stewart said. The entire project is expected to take 10 years and cost about $100 million.

Its definitely nice to see IBM using Watson for more ambitious projects than being a quiz show contestant. What do you guys think of this development? Are there any other problems you think a Watson-style AI can help solve, or do we need more of a human touch to fix our world?

Soucre: IBM, BBC

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