Layoffs at Watson Health Reveal IBM's Problem with AI

IEEE Spectrum Robotics

IBM, a venerable tech company on a mission to stay relevant, has staked much of its future on IBM Watson. The company has touted Watson, its flagship artificial intelligence, as the premier product for turning our data-rich but disorganized world into a smart and tidy planet. Just last month, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told a convention audience that we're at an inflection point in history. Putting AI into everything will enable businesses to improve on "an exponential curve," she said--a phenomenon that might one day be referred to as "Watson's Law." But according to engineers swept up in a major round of layoffs within IBM's Watson division last month, the company's promotions of its "cognitive computing" platform mask its own real difficulties in turning its AI into a profitable business.


Layoffs at Watson Health Reveal IBM's Problem with AI

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IBM, a venerable tech company on a mission to stay relevant, has staked much of its future on IBM Watson. The company has touted Watson, its flagship artificial intelligence, as the premier product for turning our data-rich but disorganized world into a smart and tidy planet. Just last month, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told a convention audience that we're at an inflection point in history. Putting AI into everything will enable businesses to improve on "an exponential curve," she said--a phenomenon that might one day be referred to as "Watson's Law." But according to engineers swept up in a major round of layoffs within IBM's Watson division last month, the company's promotions of its "cognitive computing" platform mask its own real difficulties in turning its AI into a profitable business.


Layoffs at Watson Health Reveal IBM's Problem With AI - IEEE Spectrum

#artificialintelligence

IBM, a venerable tech company on a mission to stay relevant, has staked much of its future on IBM Watson. The company has touted Watson, its flagship artificial intelligence, as the premier product for turning our data-rich but disorganized world into a smart and tidy planet. Just last month, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told a convention audience that we're at an inflection point in history. Putting AI into everything will enable businesses to improve on "an exponential curve," she said--a phenomenon that might one day be referred to as "Watson's Law." But according to engineers swept up in a major round of layoffs within IBM's Watson division last month, the company's promotions of its "cognitive computing" platform mask its own real difficulties in turning its AI into a profitable business.


IBM Says Watson Health Layoffs Affect 'Small Percentage' of Workforce

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IBM on Thursday denied recent reports that more than half of its employees at its Watson Health business were laid off. But there were still cuts at the company. The reports, citing unnamed insiders, first surfaced in The Register, which pegged workforce reductions at between 50 to 70 percent, mostly coming from the offices of startups IBM bought in the health care space. But Ed Barbini, IBM's vice president of external relations, told CRN that Big Blue is only "repositioning its team to focus on high-value segments of the IT market," and continues aggressively hiring in many divisions. While there have been some layoffs, the tally of more than half of Watson Health staff being sent home is wildly inflated, Barbini suggested via email.


IBM's Watson Health wing left looking poorly after 'massive' layoffs

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IBM has laid off approximately 50 and 70 per cent of staff this week in its Watson Health division, according to inside sources. The axe, we're told, is largely falling on IBMers within companies the IT goliath has taken over in the past few years to augment Watson's credentials in the health industry. These include medical data biz Truven, which was acquired in 2016 for $2.6bn, medical imaging firm Merge, bought in 2015 for $1bn, and healthcare management business Phytel, also snapped up in 2015. Yesterday and today, staff were let go at IBM's offices in Dallas, Texas, as well as in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado, in the US, and elsewhere, it is claimed. A spokesperson for Big Blue was not available for comment.