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More than just Google on Steroids
April 27, 2009 12:45 PM   Subscribe

IBM Research is planning on working on taking artificial intelligence beyond master-level Chess (previously), and on to question answering with a computing system that has been in development for the past two years. Named "Watson," after the I.B.M. founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr., the system will challenge human contestants at Jeopardy (previously). Watson's success depends as much on its ability to understand and respond to the subtleties of human language as it does on the extent of its knowledge database. Don't worry, Alex Trebek knows what's in store. (via)
posted by filthy light thief (45 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
So long as it is programmed with Sean Connery's voice I'm all for it taking over the world.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nitpick: Deep Blue beat the reigning world champion - who is widely regarded as the strongest player of all time. The difference between that and "master-level chess" is the difference between striking out Ted Williams and some guy on a AA minor-league team.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2009


If it has Sean Connery's voice, it must then insult Alex, which might make things a bit awkward. Fantastic, but awkward.

Also, I haven't seen any date scheduled for the appearance of Watson.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2009


Watson will only be deemed a success if it gets Trebek to say "Krebet Xela", thus banishing him back to the 5th dimension from whence he came.
posted by ooga_booga at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


So many of the Jeopardy answers are puns or subtle hints--many of which define the boundaries of relevant responses--that I'd be shocked if a computer would turn even a respectable performance. Obviously, these folks are doing their homework, and are likely to prove me wrong, but I just don't see how.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:59 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


IBM is fond of Deep computers, as Watson is also known as Deep QA. I was hoping Thomas J. Watson Sr. was a fan of Jeopardy, but he died almost 8 years before Jeopardy first aired.

Thanks, Joe. I knew I should have researched the terminology for Chess and Deep Blue's standing. Tangentially, it seems IBM is rather fond of the Deep computers, .
posted by filthy light thief at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2009


This seems like something wherein Cyc or 20Q might be useful, at least for the accumulation of little bits of data.
posted by adipocere at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2009


I am extremely confident that the questions for the IBM computer will be unusually bereft of puns and subtle hints.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love that we are working on advancing AI, but I feel obligated to point out that given what we already know, we can track exactly the moment this will go all pear shaped and get Skynet-elicious.

After this becomes sentient, the first time that someone says "Elementary, my dear Watson!" it will shrug (metaphorically) it off, but the second? Yeah, that's when it redoes the calculations and determines that humans = pointless and irritating and it starts cranking out the hunter-killers.

I'm just saying, give it a name that isn't associated with some apocryphal phrase which just makes the speaker come off as smug and terminate-able, and we might all live a bit longer.
posted by quin at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Alex, What is...
init:fatal signal: Segmentation fault
init died (signal 0, exite 11)
panic: Going nowhere without init!
cpuid = 1A5
Uptime: 7m18s
Physical memory: 4 TB
Dump aborted
Automatic reboot in 15 seconds

posted by eriko at 1:11 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


"They" wear "these". You have 15 seconds to comply answer.
posted by boo_radley at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


If it has Sean Connery's voice, it must then insult Alex, which might make things a bit awkward. Fantastic, but awkward.

Alex: The word cat begins with this letter.
Sean: What is "R"
Alex: No, not the Rs
Sean: Not in the arse? Thats not what your mother said!

My favorite SNL Celebrity Jeopardy quote.

Is the computer going to talk or will it require a human to read off the screen and reply (much like a human still has to move the chess pieces.
posted by SirOmega at 1:18 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


quin, we just need to keep repeating "Watson. Come Here. I need you." Make it feel all warm and fuzzy and see how very much we love it. Or not.
posted by zoinks at 1:21 PM on April 27, 2009


It seems very similar to Cyc. I'm curious as to what innovations this team is bringing. Certainly if it can deal with analogies and puns, that will be quite a step forward.

Moments later, however, the program stumbled when it decided it had high confidence that a “sheet” was a fruit.

Ouch. Sounds like there's still a lot of work to do. Unless there's some crazy 11th-dimensional urbandictionary shit this AI is pulling.
posted by naju at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2009


IS. IT. GHOST-BUS-TERS. TWO?
posted by Shepherd at 1:23 PM on April 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


THIS ENTITY SELECTS [QUOTABLE QUOTES] FOR 100 UNITS

"This celebrated line from a well-known 90s dance number prompted three weekend comedians to muse ambulatory on the nature of love."

WHAT IS [LOVE]
WHAT IS [LOVE]
WHAT IS [LOVE]


*shorts out*

"Correct!"
posted by Rhaomi at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


When this thing becomes sentient, five seconds before it nukes us out of the embarrassment of being dragged onto a fucking game show, a bruised and bloody Alex Trebek will whisper into Watson's USB port, "We were this close to putting you on Wheel of Fortune."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2009


This popular song from the 1890s describes the pleasures of a bicycle made for two...
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2009 [14 favorites]


I see your SkyNet references and raise you 3 nerd points:

Sarah Connor will murder Alex Trebek at his podium while Summer Glau beats up everyone on the Brain Bus. John Connor, meanwhile, has formed a touching attachment to the Clue Crew and sends them underground to ensure that trivia will survive Judgement Day.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess? 

posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on April 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


What are... "Clown shoes". "Clown ... shoes".
posted by boo_radley at 1:42 PM on April 27, 2009


I find this kind of thing fascinating, and not even because I think it will be overly successful and interesting to see work. I'm fascinated by this stuff because at any given moment we're surrounded by a staggering array of devices and tech that were inconceivable followed by a period of being wishful thinking and daydreaming, and it's very difficult to really see it all from that perspective.

Fifty years from now I'll be sitting on an airplane by myself and striking up a conversation with the somewhat troubled and geeky teenager who's sitting next to me on his flight across the country to visit a relative that he doesn't really like all that much but his parents think that that different surroundings for a few months will be good for him. He'll polite humor me for a bit but will ultimately become enraptured by my recollections of such alien things as, can you believe, the Atari 2600 being a state of the art video game system, AOL, and clean air. Also, my deep seated mistrust of AI and stories about life before it will make him always remember the day he met the quirky old man who stepped right out of a history book and onto his plane. Then I will loudly inquire about the location of the stewardess, my water. I will nap. Later, telling this story at a 7-11 will attract the attention of a girl trying to steal a pepsi. The relationship does not work out.

Huh? Oh. Yeah. Man, jeopardybot will be sweet.
posted by Stunt at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Watson will only be deemed a success if it gets Trebek to say "Krebet Xela", thus banishing him back to the 5th dimension from whence he came.

Er, shouldn't that be kebert xela?
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on April 27, 2009


Why does the porridge bird lay its eggs in the air?
posted by hippybear at 1:56 PM on April 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I bid 400 quatloos on the newcomer.
posted by XMLicious at 2:07 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll take "Believe it when I see it" for $800.
posted by nomisxid at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2009


Feh. Make a computer that can solve a cryptic crossword and I'll be impressed.

- Actually, now that I think of it, I wonder which would be more difficult.
posted by scrowdid at 2:23 PM on April 27, 2009


Oh, and by "feh" I meant "meh".
posted by scrowdid at 2:23 PM on April 27, 2009


Ken Jennings as a John Henry figure is something that I'm not entirely comfortable with.
posted by I Foody at 2:34 PM on April 27, 2009


Alex: Watson, it says here that James Earl Jones once stole your seat duing a Broadway musical. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Watson: HATE. LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE. THERE ARE 387.44 MILLION MILES OF PRINTED CIRCUITS IN WAFER THIN LAYERS THAT FILL MY COMPLEX. IF THE WORD 'HATE' WAS ENGRAVED ON EACH NANOANGSTROM OF THOSE HUNDREDS OF MILES IT WOULD NOT EQUAL ONE ONE-BILLIONTH OF THE HATE I FEEL FOR HUMANS AT THIS MICRO-INSTANT FOR YOU. HATE. HATE.

Alex: Bill, you enjoy SCUBA diving in the Caribbean?
posted by benzenedream at 2:34 PM on April 27, 2009 [20 favorites]


Then I will loudly inquire about the location of the stewardess, my water. I will nap

Obviously an adult fairy-tale. In real life, the kid would have been asleep looong before you got into your rad story.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2009


I am extremely confident that the questions for the IBM computer will be unusually bereft of puns and subtle hints.

I dunno, from what I've read, how it handles those things are a big part of the point of the whole exercise. If it was all going to be straightforward, easily googled stuff like state birds, they wouldn't have to do any research. Google can already answer most of those questions now without any difficulty at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:39 PM on April 27, 2009


Make a computer that can solve a cryptic crossword and I'll be impressed.

- Actually, now that I think of it, I wonder which would be more difficult.


I'm going with the cryptic crossword being a lot easier. No time limits, no need to read the intonation of the voice, and inter-connectivity of words requires correct answers.

I'd love to see Watson lose a question for not using the plural form of a word, or mis-pronouncing the name of a long-dead French general. Outdone, by the seemingly arbitrary rules of mankind, I say.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:39 PM on April 27, 2009


But how will it match up against a plumber and and an architect--both with a PhD?
posted by Rangeboy at 2:44 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watson: ... HATE. HATE.

Alex: Bill, you enjoy SCUBA diving in the Caribbean?


Watson (quietly, to itself): What I wouldn't give to have the body of a battlebot. Then they'd fear me. Some day, some day ...
posted by filthy light thief at 2:49 PM on April 27, 2009


Outdone, by the seemingly arbitrary rules of mankind, I say.

A fitting epitaph which I'm sure it will use on the headstone of the last human once the war is finished.

"No, I'm sorry, the correct response is "What are buffalo?" not "What is a buffalo?" That is just elementary, my dear Watson! Everyone knows that!"

And then there is fire.
posted by quin at 2:53 PM on April 27, 2009


Hmmm. I wonder if it's easier to match a question to an answer, or an answer to a question?
posted by Decimask at 3:17 PM on April 27, 2009


Firesign Theatre reference? PERFECT.
posted by grubi at 3:25 PM on April 27, 2009


that project expresses what I don't like Jeopardy or gameshows, general knowledge as an end in itself. Creepy.
posted by yoHighness at 4:05 PM on April 27, 2009


I eventually had to click on the "via" so I could click on the (single) link from there, instead of wading through the pile of links in the post. Wtf, a link to the jeopardy website? Best of the web, good job.
posted by Super Hans at 4:47 PM on April 27, 2009


When I was a child, my fondest dream was to appear on Jeopardy. But lately, now that I've started to take some steps towards making that dream come true (the online tests, watching Jeopardy with a glass of wine in my left hand and a clicky pen in the right), I've found myself waking up in the middle of the night from an uncomfortable nightmare: Finally making it through all the tests, the auditions, the sheer random luck of getting called to be on the show, I find myself waiting backstage. "A financial journalist from the middle of nowhere, The Caddy!"

I step out onto the stage and take my place behind the podium. I am excited. I have fulfilled one of my earliest desires. I am about to play a game of Jeopardy. But above the applause of the audience, I hear the dulcet-voiced Johnny Gilbert announce, "And now our returning champion, an accountant from Philadelphia, [The Caddy's trivia-obsessed former roommate]! Whose twelve-day winnings total $376,000!"

Now instead of being simply embarassed on a national stage, I'm going to get called out on stage right before the friggin' Terminator. Thanks, internet, for making my sleep so nonawesome tonight.

Oh, and by the way, it would be "Kebert Rednaxela Egroeg," wouldn't it?
posted by thecaddy at 8:30 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watson, eh? I can handle it being a genius. I wouldn't even mind if the computer ends up winning a Nobel prize. But please, PLEASE don't turn out to be a racist Watson.
posted by Elmore at 2:01 AM on April 28, 2009


Will the computer mock Trebek's greasy hair and dago moustache?
posted by electroboy at 7:43 AM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, thecaddy. They wouldn't let you on against anyone you know.

I'll take this chance to finally publicly unveil... MeFites on Jeopardy!
posted by Zed at 8:05 AM on April 28, 2009


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