The last time I crossed paths with IBM's Watson, we faced off in a round of Jeopardy!. Since then, Watson has grown up and gone to medical school: The computer system is now working with doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, learning how to suggest treatment options for lung cancer.
IBM scientists stopped by my office this week to demonstrate Watson's new skills. They hope that, within just a few years, Watson will be deployed to doctors' offices around the country.
What sets Watson apart from most computer systems is that it doesn't simply look up facts in a massive database. Rather, it learns. Much as Watson once learned Jeopardy!-style trivia by analyzing millions of books and websites, it is now learning medicine by reading thousands of journal articles, monitoring patients, and listening to the input of patients and doctors.
These are the kind of breakthrough technological developments that are hard to predict in advance but which almost inevitably result from private and public investments in R&D. Such discoveries will help drive economic growth and job creation for years to come.
Big Oil Doesn't Need Our Bailouts
If you or I were to walk into a neighbor's yard and douse their grass with motor oil, a court would hold us personally liable for the full cleanup costs. But that's not the way America's legal system works for Big Oil. Under current law, Big Oil's liability for offshore oil spills is capped at just $75 million.
This figure is absurdly low. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill is estimated to have caused at least $42 billion in damages -- more than 500 times the current liability cap! In New Jersey, our fishing and tourism industries, which could be devastated by an offshore spill, are responsible for $12 billion in economic output and more than 200,000 jobs. And let's be clear: Big Oil doesn't need taxpayer bailouts to support their drilling. In the first quarter of this year alone, the five largest oil companies reported more than $30 billion in profits.
Together with Sen. Bob Menendez, I recently reintroduced the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, which would abolish the offshore oil spill liability cap once and for all. Big Oil should play by the same rules as everyone else.
Teacher Appreciation Week
This is Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to recognize all of the educators in New Jersey's schools, from our kindergarten classrooms to our college campuses.
As a former educator, I know a teacher's work isn't easy -- especially at a time when Gov. Christie and some Tea Party lawmakers in Washington keep cutting support for education. But the job of educating the next generation is vital, and teachers' efforts are deeply appreciated.
I hope you'll take a moment this week to thank a teacher who made a difference in your life. If you are a teacher yourself, you may be considering ways to continue your professional development in the summer months. I encourage you to consider the New Jersey Council for the Humanities' Teacher Institute, which is available tuition-free. Offerings include a seminar on the connections between environmental sustainability, literature and history, and another on civic engagement for youth. The application deadline is May 22.
Member of Congress