Have you ever seen IBM's Watson? Watson is composed of a cluster of ninety IBM Power 750 servers, each of which uses a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight core processor, with four threads per core. In total, the system has 2,880 POWER7 processor cores and has 16 terabytes of RAM. It must be kept in a (very) large refrigerated room.
Watson is a question answering (QA) computing system that IBM built to apply advanced natural language processing, information retrieval, knowledge representation, automated reasoning, and machine learning technologies to the field of open domain question answering. According to John Rennie, Watson can process 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second.
Watson's official debut was on the game show Jeopardy, where it was pitted against two of Jeopardy's best players. It won, but the humans gave it a run for its money. Most believe the win was more due to Watson's faster response time (it was electronically keyed into the buzzer; Watson could activate the buzzer within about eight milliseconds, whereas the human response time to the go ahead light signal is several tenths of a second. In addition, to access memory more quickly, content was stored in Watson's RAM for the game because data stored on hard drives are too slow to access.
Watson was devised as a medical diagnostician (as well as other applications). With many years, scores of technicians, who knows how many billions of dollars, and access to medical encyclopedias, books, medical journals and the internet, it can outperform third year medical students in only one area: oncology (and even then, only lung, prostate and breast CA).
So, one average medical resident (4 years of medical school, and, say, second year of residency) can outperform a very, very fast medical supercomputer 99% of the time. I specialize in Primary Care medicine: Family and Emergency Medicine. With a few exceptions per year, within minutes of initiating a conversation with a patient, by watching the patient, reading his vital signs, and hearing answers to perhaps a dozen questions, I already have narrowed down my diagnoses to 2 or 3 top candidates and several other lesser considerations. I am one individual with one brain which accesses only to the information to which I've been exposed, yet I will outperform a medical supercomputer >99% of the time. In under 10 minutes. (This does not mean that I only spend 10 minutes with a patient. Medicine is about more than the correct diagnosis.)
This is Watson:
My brain is about the size of the "W" etched on the room's window.
You tell me: Which is "faster", a supercomputer or a human brain? It really does depend on your definition of "faster", doesn't it?
Putting Watson to Work: Watson in Healthcare. IBM.
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