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home : opinions : letters September 28, 2016

3/5/2013 1:05:00 PM
Letter: Elementary, my dear Watson


Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system (developed at IBM), capable of answering questions posed in natural language. In 2011, Watson competed on Jeopardy against former winners Brad Rutter, and Ken Jennings. Watson won the first prize of $1 million. Watson is smart! (Of course, instead of a human brain, Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content occupying four terabytes of disk storage.)

On February 8, 2013, IBM announced that oncologists at Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and Westmed Medical Group in New York have started to test the Watson supercomputer system for it’s ability to diagnose lung cancer and optimize its treatment. This is expected to reduce costly human error and inefficient use of scarce medical resources. In the near future, Watson may save us all a lot of money by increasing the accuracy and efficiency of our whole health care system. The best thing is, Watson doesn’t get tired, and he/she/it is eager to solve more problems. Our task is to ask Watson the right questions.

That got me to thinking. Congress is unable or unwilling to do the job we hired them to do: reach a compromise to balance our national budget. Perhaps they are not smart enough to handle this complex task, but many of us are now loosing confidence in their intention to agree to a reasonable compromise which will permit our nation to move forward.

So I say we, the people, ask Watson the same question each week: “Watson, how would you cut $2,000,000,000 ($2 billion) of federal spending this week in a manner which would preserve the greatest number of jobs in the total U.S. economy?” Without emotion, Watson would answer accurately in less than a second. We could then order Congress to do the paperwork and enact the cuts, no questions asked. (These days, the federal government spends about $73 billion per week, so $2 billion in cuts per week would be equivalent to a continuous cut in spending of just 2.7%.)

Congress should love this idea because not one of them could be blamed. Democrats and Republicans alike will shrug and say, “Blame Watson! It’s Watson’s fault!”, as they inexorably cut federal spending $2 billion per week. Each year, the accumulated weekly spending cuts would yield $104 billion in spending reductions. After 15 years, our nation will avoid spending $1,560,000,000,000 ($1.56 trillion). Seems like a lot of money.

Yet, it’s just enough to cancel out the debt generated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 ($1.43 trillion and counting); with $130 billion (or 12 days of spending) left over. War is very expensive.

Three things became apparent to me as I wrote this:

1. We may no longer be able to rely on our dysfunctional Republocrat Congress to solve our largest collective problem: the federal budget, which has run large deficits since 2000; ballooning our total national debt by $11 trillion.

2. With or without Congress’ help, we must preschedule significant, smart spending cuts to restore our nation’s fiscal strength.

3. We can no longer afford to engage in foreign wars without automatic tax increases to pay for them.

Peter Nelson

Yavapai County

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Article comment by: Libertarian Wonk

@ Dangerously Irrational - As usual, the Tea-Baggin' fascists come out of the wood work like hungry termites. What you need to remember is that your poster-boy Geore W. is the one who ran up trillions in debt by starting an unfunded war in retribution for Saddam's transgressions against his daddy. We all know "you people" have no respect for the truth and love conspiracy stories, and now we have to add pronoun problems to your list of inadequacies!

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ Peter Nelson
Good letter! Much enjoyed.
As a hometown girl, though, I'd rather ask Watson how to get Prescott to let us all see the groundwater model we helped pay for.

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Watson Give Conditional Answers....

to our "political" question:

1st Condition needed: All political parties must
be removed from the unconstitutional power
and controls they have obtained over the last
more than 200 years at fed, state, local gov.

2nd Consition needed: All elected/appointed
officials (fed, state, local) must have their pay,
perks, benefits cut by 51% or more.

When these two conditions are met...Watson
can move on to helping with more problems.

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Holliday

Peter. As Paul harvey would say.. "now the rest of the Story"

Watson is being "rented" by WellPoint, a Major Health Insurance provider. The purpose is not really to verify that diagnosis can be done, that has already been established during DeepQA. What is happening is treatment scenarios are being tabulated, which in turn, projects costs for treatment. As an IBM'er for over 32 years, i and many of my fellow retired workers shiver that the possiblity that if this project is successful, and it will be, there are many very smart people working on it, very soon your treatment well may be based upon projected costs for treatment.. George Orwell has been vindicated.

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Dangerously Rational

The self-proclaimed "Peter of Yavapai" is risking the poisonous wrath of the usual liberal suspects with this mostly rational letter.

This of course after throwing out the first half with all the Watson nonsense.

But for Peter to make an otherwise reasonable statement like our "largest collective problem is federal budget deficits" is dangerously rational, considering his otherwise consistently Democratic liberal opinions.

Such rationality flies in the face of the liberal Obama policies and the economic recommendations of his Keynesian advisors, who all say nonsense to the so-called deficit. We have no debt problem. All we need to do is spend more and tax more!

Just a few days ago we had the President preaching fire and brimstone over cutting a measly $43 billion in a $3.8 trillion FY13 budget.

If we cut spending, how we gonna put more people on food stamps? That's economic stimulus folks!

If we cut spending, who's gonna pay for my free contraceptives? (Oh never mind, I just got my 40% increase in healthcare insurance premiums this year. Now I know who's paying).

Where we gonna get money to loan to our cronies, oops I mean favored green companies, like Solyndra? Don't worry they went bankrupt and stuck us taxpayers with the bill. That's stimulus too.

It's a wonder that anyone still believes these liberal "taxing and spending is our salvation" economic theories.

Maybe Peter is coming to his senses.

Just gird yourself Peter for the wrath of angry liberals who don't care about such minor issues as trillions in debt. This is meaningless to people who are obsessed with social justice issues and pushing democratic socialism on the country.

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Article comment by: Bill Bassett

Great idea, gotta make it hacker proof and make sure the data that Watson has to work with is not corrupted or skewed left or right. And what happens when Watson answers the how do we save question by eliminating itself?
Just points to ponder.

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