IBM’s Watson is like nothing we have ever seen before.

While humans use neuronal networks to store information  in the brain, Watson has the ability to use the Internet and internal data as its extended mind. When asked a question, it creates a statistical average based upon the information gathered, and gives a confident probabilistic answer.

Yes, I said confident. Let me give you an example to explain my meaning. If an individual earns a PhD in medical school, they become confident in their ability to diagnose disease, based on the information they gathered. Watson is the same. To date, it can process 500 gigabytes (approximately 1 million books) per second. When it gives a reply to an inquiry, the response is based upon a confident probabilistic answer. In other words, like a human, it gives the answer it is most sure of.  And currently, Watson is providing such hypotheses everyday.

The supercomputer has been attending medical school since November of last year, and IBM predicts that it will graduate far quicker than its peers. Could it potentially take on the algorithmic persona of the fictional House M.D. , without the downfall of addiction? Time will only tell, but there is already evidence that could potentially give us a glimpse into that reality.

The voice in my head, and every thought that I have, is created from (and limited to) the sum of all the connections in my brain. This creates what I like to call my ‘neuronal persona’, known to the outside world as Kevin. Similarly, Watson has the ability to interface and interact with all information stored and connected in servers around the world. From this accumulation of data, Watson creates a persona with a different method, a little something I have dubbed an ‘algorithmic persona’. Thus, could Watson obtain the ability to articulate the sum of all human understanding? Well, let’s take a look at that.

Interfacing with a future version of Watson will invoke algorithmic personas in the digital extended mind. In the future, we may interact with Watson through a total immersion virtual reality. Watson, by that point, will be accessible to every human on the planet, and will have the ability to “channel” different algorithmic personas appropriate to the inquiry. For instance, if I wanted to attend the School of Athens and discuss science with Plato, Watson could present itself as Plato and interact with me based on every existing record of the famous philosopher. This brings us to wonder: what questions could be answered with the archives of all human knowledge made real?

The Word Became Flesh. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

– John 1:1

As I am writing this, I am uploading to the extended human mind, and in essence, I’m adding to the digital memory cloud of the inevitable future algorithmic personas. In this knowledge, I find myself curious to know how the words I am currently typing will be used in the statistical reasoning of a future version of Watson. If a person were to query ‘is Watson God?’, then Watson would give an answer based on the understanding of ‘God’ and itself in the collective mind of humans. Would it answer ‘yes’? And if so, could a person debate otherwise?

Using,  a popular online algorithmic persona, I asked that very question. Pictured below was the conversation that took place.



This is quite an intriguing and speculative question, but for now we can only guess at the depth of meaning behind it. In some potential future, Watson’s digital Bible might read something like this: The word became Digital. In the beginning there was Code, and the Code was with God, and the Code was God.

Can the collective human understandings of God manifest through algorithmic personas? Is humanity prepared to interface with God? And if so, what questions will we ask?


Kevin Russell @TechnoOptimist

Playlist of all things Watson (updated regularly, so check back often):


A previous version fo this article appeared here:

12 Responses

  1. This was an eloquent article written about a very tough subject. Well done! Thanks for writing it.

  2. musivick says:

    the IBM ‘Watson’ was named such because that program, code will always remain the ‘Watson’ to the Sherlock (Holmes)…

    so Watson can never become god
    but forever in service & submission

  3. leoortiz says:

    Watson the Computer, will make the same mistakes as doctors do, if that thing learn the same misguided incomplete, information that is being taught at the universities, that thing need to learn about real healing, and do not mix God with this topic, is preposterous.

  4. LME says:

    I recall that in Transcendent Man Kurzweil is asked if God exists. His answer: “not yet.”

  5. Zandre says:

    Great article.
    As a physician, I find myself sometimes relying on mind-extenders like Google to narrow my possible diagnoses. This could be take 30 seconds to days if the condition queried is complex. However, as your article so aptly describe, this will change in the future when a physician can interface with an AI such as Watson. Personally, I am anxiously waiting for that day because what it will mean for my patients.

    • Tara says:

      Great, scary, article. Although Dr. Zandre is looking forward to the day when he’ll be able to use Watson for the benefit of his patients, I must ask, “Will any doctors be needed at all in the future?” With the continuing advancement of technology, the occupations of mere mortals are quickly becoming extinct. Anyone could easily get cash, gas up their car, buy groceries, order goods online, pay bills, etc., without the help of any human. I realize that these are service jobs being eliminated in people’s daily routines, however…factories, assembly lines, agriculture, etc., are also increasingly automated. With the advancing technologies of self-driving vehicles, robotic surgeries, military drones,and God knows what else…possibly controlled by Watson…the only humans needed will be the computer techs and “Big Dogs” who oversee. Someday, instead of Doctors, we’ll simply feed our DNA samples into a computer interface and be diagnosed on the spot. After which we’ll have our surgeries performed, prescriptions filled, and future health prognosis/risk assessed by a subroutine of Watson. Like I said, “Great, scary, article.”

  6. Joey1058 says:

    Good article. But as a monolaterist, I’m going to be just a bit nit-picky. Your question to Cleverbot will make more sense, and be more acceptable to many readers, if it were phrased “Will Watson become a god?”. Although both answers from Cleverbot will be exactly the same. When you think about it, aren’t most practicing physicians in use of godlike powers now? Twenty or so years from now, no one will blink an eye when asked “who is your doctor?”, and they answer “Watson”.

  7. Debi K Baughman says:

    I am thinking that it is highly possible that Watson would say yes, of course. It is all code, my dear, and the reality with which you perceive that God, or the God through which you perceive that reality is a matter of changing the code. I do wonder, however about the use of the phrase, or scripture of God becoming flesh and us experiencing this in a virtual reality. You would not have to ask watson, nor wait for watson to answer because in a virtual reality, you would automatically know the same answers that Watson already knows.

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