Legal Technology

Watson Computer, Making 'Jeopardy' Debut, Could Do Associate Research, IBM GC Says

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Updated: This Jeopardy winner could jeopardize associate jobs. The answer (in the form of a question): What is the Watson computer?

Watson, named for IBM’s first chief executive, is competing on Jeopardy on Feb. 14-16 and defeated two of the show’s former champions, PCWorld reported. But the technology behind the computer “could become a real boon to the legal profession,” according to IBM’s general counsel, Robert Weber. He explains in an article for the National Law Journal.

The computer understands questions it is asked, and it learns and gets better with practice, Weber says. Now IBM is beginning to explore how the Watson technology can be used by lawyers.

“Imagine a new kind of legal research system that can gather much of the information you need to do your job—a digital associate, if you will,” Weber writes. “With the technology underlying Watson, called Deep QA, you could have a vast, self-contained database loaded with all of the internal and external information related to your daily tasks, whether you’re preparing for litigation, protecting intellectual property, writing contracts or negotiating an acquisition. Pose a question and, in milliseconds, Deep QA can analyze hundreds of millions of pages of content and mine them for facts and conclusions—in about the time it takes to answer a question on a quiz show.”

Weber adds that Deep QA won’t ever be able to replace lawyers, but it can extend their capabilities. Also, “we’re pretty sure it would do quite well in a multistate bar exam!” Weber writes.

Updated Feb. 22 to include report of Watson’s Jeopardy win.

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