Watson Will Help Former Soldiers With Financial Questions

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 28 2014 7:23 PM

Watson Will Help Former Soldiers With Financial Questions

Meet the next generation financial planner.

Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images

Watson is IBM’s supercomputer, complete with artificial intelligence and a discerning palate. And now it’s going to work on helping military service members understand the nuances of the financial transition back to civilian life.

It may seem like a strange problem to try to solve as part of IBM’s effort to make Watson’s power available to consumers, but it’s actually exactly the type of thing Watson is good at. USAA is the insurance and financial planning firm for the military, and a lot of what the group does is inevitably answering complicated questions from servicemen and women transitioning back into civilian life. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 155,000 military members make the change every year. That’s a lot of questions to field. For example, do interest rates on a loan change when you’re moving from active duty to civilian life? And will you need different insurance coverage?


As eWeek reports, Watson has analyzed more than 3,000 specialized military transition documents, so it knows all the rules and regulations about how to make the change. And its natural language processing allows it to understand real questions asked in diverse ways. That way, even if someone doesn’t know how to ask a question in the optimal way, Watson can still attempt to parse the meaning at the heart of what they're saying.

USAA said in a statement that it formed a team that worked with Watson for six months and trained the computer using 2,000 questions as a baseline. And Eric Engquist, USAA’s assistant vice president of Military Transitions, said, “USAA chose the topic of military separation for its first foray into the cognitive computing space because it provides a singular focus with a finite audience. … More importantly, it will enable USAA to provide relevant guidance during one of the most emotional and financially impactful decisions our military members will make during their career.”

Watson will be available through USAA’s website during a pilot run, and users will be asked to take a survey after they ask Watson their questions. Clearly, high-tech financial planning has moved beyond online tax preparation.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.