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IBM 2016

IBM’s Watson should run for president

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Running mates?
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

With every passing presidential debate, candidates’ stump speeches and jabs at each other are starting to feel more rote, even robotic. With opinion split among Democratic voters and no clear winner yet emerging from the Republicans, it might be the perfect time for an actual robot to enter the race: IBM’s Watson.

Rumors have been floating around the internet that the cognitive computing system, perhaps best known for winning the game show Jeopardy in 2011, and palling around with celebrities like Bob Dylan and Serena Williams, may make a daring late entry into the 2016 presidential race.

A vision of the future, from the Watson 2016 website.

Watson could be the centrist candidate that the polarized race has been searching for. Unlike most of the candidates running, Watson has no emotions, basing its decisions entirely on being able to parse every fact it can find out about a topic and choosing the most logical answer in minutes. A member of Watson’s team, Rob High—IBM’s Watson technology lead—previously told Quartz that the cloud-based machine learning system is “inspired by how humans can reason through a problem—minus the emotional bias.” Perfect for the high-stakes world of the US executive office.

A third-party group, called Watson 2016 Foundation, has set up a website where voters can learn more about where Watson stands on the issues of the day. According to the group, Watson is a proponent of ending homelessness, national healthcare, and free university education. Bernie Sanders might be given a run for his money if Watson decides to throw its hat into the ring. The group didn’t immediately respond with requests confirming who had set up the site.

Representatives for Watson were quick to respond to comments about the presidential speculation, but didn’t provide Quartz with a firm answer on whether Watson would ever run:

IBM’s Watson is not running for President, though we’re humbled by the suggestion. Right now, Watson is focused on other important work like helping doctors improve healthcare and teachers improve education.

Until Watson itself once and for all speaks out, it’s likely that the “will-it-won’t-it” speculations will continue well beyond tomorrow’s primary vote in New Hampshire. If Watson does join the race, one question will still remain: Who will it choose as a running mate? Reports are that Siri is looking for more to do, but Amazon’s Alexa is having a bit of a moment right now. Watson definitely has some options.

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