Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Why not Watson for Genealogy?

A couple of worthwhile blog posts on the future of genealogy came my way over the weekend courtesy of Randy Seaver's weekly roundup Best of the Genea-Blogs.

Expanding Our View of What is Possible in Genealogical Research by James Tanner caught my attention with:

"Huge online programs have begun using sophisticated search algorithms to find source hints with digitized documents. For many new genealogists, finding their ancestors is just a matter of rapidly reviewing and evaluating documents suggested by the programs. Of course, as always, there are the detractors who claim that using the technology is somehow unacceptable, but the changes will come even more rapidly in the future. The old way of doing genealogy that I used thirty years ago is gone."
The Future of Genealogy - 6 Predictions by Louis Kessler attracted my attention with the following in the 4th prediction "Down with Standards. Up with APIs."
"We don’t want to transfer just data anymore. We want to connect the information available at the online repositories and online services to what we have and make corrections, add conclusions and connect the conclusions to their evidence. In other words, we want our data AND our reasoning AND the evidence behind our reasoning to transfer and connect seamlessly with the online resources."
"Once there is a company big enough that connects to everywhere by linking to all these APIs, it will becomes hugely popular, and the genealogical world will take another giant leap.
That company does exist, its called IBM and it has a technology called Watson - the same one that beat the two top champions of the long-running TV program Jeopardy in 2011. Watson can only have improved in the intervening four years. It's already at work in financial services, marketing and medical applications. A smart genealogy company would seek a partnership with IBM rather than reinventing the wheel."


Louis Kessler said...


Watson is in the realm of artificial intelligence research. We're talking here about Watson being your genealogical research assistant who can do most of your analysis, collection and organization for you.

They are inviting people to become IBM Watson Ecosystem Partners. You're right. It might be interesting to explore what it might be able to do for genealogists.


Heber said...

John and Louise,

I am experimenting with IBM Watson and Genetic Genealogy.
After a slow start, I am beginning to get reasonable results using Watson and various datasets eg L21 Haplotypes, Hallast et al Phylogenetic Tree Branches.
Not quiet ready for publication but here is a sampler.
IBM Many Eyes was integrated into Watson and in many ways was easier to use to produce useful infographics.
I would be interested in hearing of other peoples experience with Watson Analytics and happy to collaborate.