The Data Agenda

Friday, October 30, 2015

2 Sides of Watson

You may have seen the ads IBM has been airing for its Watson system recently. Here is one of them:



So cute and friendly, right?

Watson is IBM's cognitive computing system. IBM explains, “to understand the power of Watson, we must first understand cognitive computing and how it enhances, scales, and accelerates human expertise.”

Fast Company ran an article about Watson in its November 2012 issue.

By way of background, the article explains, “The way Watson solves problems—or, rather, the way it looks for answers, simultaneously sending out thousands of inquiries in all directions and then scoring the evidence it collects—is different from how other computers work. One person at IBM likens Watson's process to (1) gathering hundreds or thousands of possible solutions from a vast data bank, (2) pouring them into a giant funnel, (3) stirring with a dash of algorithms, and (4) letting only the best drip out of the bottom.”

A dash of algorithms? Who needs to explain chemistry when you can just make it sound like alchemy instead?

This human-created system must be beyond humans if “Watson can ingest more data in a day than any human could in a lifetime.”

Two quotes from that article stand out, and they stand in stark contrast to one another.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Focusing on Replacing ACA is a Bad Idea

1. It's a Trap

Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act on their own in 2010, and they know it has been an albatross around their necks ever since. It painted huge targets on them. The elections in 2010 and 2014 are clear evidence of this, as was their silence on their “signature domestic achievement” during 2012.

Their easiest and safest response to ACA opposition has been to ask “With what would you replace ACA?” It's a simple divide and conquer strategy.

Two things can happen with a focus on replacement: (1) Too many proposals pop up, ACA opposition unity becomes dispersed, and Democrats try to run out the clock on ACA being a hot issue. (2) Republicans indeed compile an alternative, it becomes the target instead, and ACA replacement unity is still not as strong as it would be for pursuing outright repeal.

Either way, if Democrats can get and keep Republicans' focus off of the problem and on to their distraction, the law stands.

2. Cancer does not need a replacement

The Affordable Care Act is not just an inferior law or bad policy on which we can supposedly improve. It is an actively corrosive agent in the health care system. It is a cancer eating away at what has been the crown jewel, not just of the United States, but of the world in terms of providing true quality medical care.

The flawed fundamental premise of ACA is one of providing care to populations instead of individuals. The same level of care must be available to everyone at any time, no matter the level of need. For the sake of “a woman no longer being a preexisting condition,” regulations promulgated as a result of the law now require covering maternity services for retired men.

ACA implements a political ideology that creates all kinds of unnatural pressures based on political ideology instead of reality-based exchange of services for real needs. The excessive and unnecessary additional work loads on our medical professionals and clinicians take their toll, and the damage continues.

ACA also vastly increases the risk of political corruption.