TECHNOLOGY that can rival a human's ability to answer questions with speed, accuracy and confidence is an intimidating thing.

As an IBMer, I'm proud of this accomplishment. But if you're worried about computers replacing humans - a sentiment raised by Elmer Smith in " 'Jeopardy!' champ? Watson? It's not so elementary" - that's not the point of this four-year-long science experiment by IBM. It's about improving business and society.

Watson's ability to parse ungrammatical statements, interpret puns and deal with ambiguity promises to give it a role in more serious endeavors - like saving lives.

Using Watson, a doctor could get tips on alternative diagnoses, recommendations for tests and reminders about drug interactions. Watson could deliver precisely the types of information a physician needs for decision-making - right at the point of care. Of course, Watson wouldn't make any diagnoses on its own. But it could advise the physician, suggesting possibilities with varying degrees of probability.

Working with medical schools like Carnegie Mellon, a Watson can analyze a patient's medical records, and point out any causes for concern, highlighting the abnormal and potential drug interactions while being able to understand verbal instructions and reply to them. In a world facing a shortage of doctors, having technology to help people become healthy is a good step.

The Watson victory on "Jeopardy!" is a victory for humans. It is human ingenuity, and the innovative work of many intelligent people, that has developed this technology, and we can use it just as we use other tools, from calculators to cars, to make things easier. If we embrace this technology to improve the lives and health of our citizens, then Watson's win will really be something to celebrate.

Larry Pastor, IBM vice president

& senior Pennsylvania state executive

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Penn Dems are laughable

The Penn Democrats heckling Newt Gingrich would've voted for Bill Clinton if they'd been old enough, despite his steamy personal history. The righteous indignation of that Penn Democrats president is comical, not to mention naive.

Georgia Makiver, Lansdowne

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Saddle up the cops!

I was delighted to read in the One Great Idea poll that 60.5 percent of the people support the return of the mounted unit to the Philadelphia Police Department.

The current initiative by the nonprofit Philadelphia Police Foundation to fund the mounted unit needs the support of everyone.

The start-up for the unit's headquarters and stables will be paid solely through donations, not by city tax money. For info and to pledge a donation go to

Lawrence Rubin, board member

Philadelphia Police Foundation