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Alex, this mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
June 23, 2010 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Alex, I'll take "Kickass Text Analysis Algorithms" for a thousand, please. "Over the rest of the day [at IBM labs] Watson went on a tear, winning four of six games. It displayed remarkable facility with cultural trivia (“This action flick starring Roy Scheider in a high-tech police helicopter was also briefly a TV series” — “What is ‘Blue Thunder’?”), science (“The greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago in this African country, where it was used to hunt gazelles” — “What is Egypt?”) and sophisticated wordplay (“Classic candy bar that’s a female Supreme Court justice” — “What is Baby Ruth Ginsburg?”)." Next up, a live match up against human winners of Jeopardy. But of course the real question is how good are you? Can you beat Watson?
posted by storybored (89 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can I beat Watson?

Yes.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Watson: "They" wear "These".
posted by boo_radley at 2:31 PM on June 23, 2010


It doesn't help that they use jeopardy questions from a previous episode -- so you can google the question and find the answer. (As I understand, it can search the internet, right?) I think he'd be much worse at the punny ones without that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:34 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Watson struggles a little on the Before and After-- no way he could beat Ken Jennings :)
posted by karminai at 2:37 PM on June 23, 2010


"They" wear "These".

Smile like a donut.
posted by griphus at 2:40 PM on June 23, 2010


(As I understand, it can search the internet, right?)

No. It's entirely offline.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:41 PM on June 23, 2010


32 to 11. In your face, Watson!
posted by crunchland at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2010


Hell, yeah, I dusted it. Perhaps because I actually was a Jeopardy! contestant?

The actual contestants on the show are worlds tougher than Watson.
posted by bearwife at 2:44 PM on June 23, 2010


I scored: 27-18, Watson takes a dive! It was touch and go though. We have the advantage because the mini-app always allows us to answer first which would not be the case against the real-live Watson.
posted by storybored at 2:45 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


11 to 29, I am teh lose, but I spelled attaché wrong. I would have pronounced it right.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:46 PM on June 23, 2010


I tied him! Surprisingly good. Are you sure Watson's offline though? He answered "Baldness (male pattern)" for one question, which struck me as awfully Wikipedic.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:46 PM on June 23, 2010


I won 36 to 18. Watson doesn't seem too bright.
posted by Uncle Grumpy at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2010


I particularly enjoy that Watson guessed that Abraham Lincoln popularized the sombrero.
posted by argybarg at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2010 [15 favorites]


41 to 18, suck it Watson! Also I now know that I apparently know absolutely nothing about 'historic fashion'.
posted by threetoed at 2:52 PM on June 23, 2010


I don't know parent companies. I know everything else, and Watson can't beat me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:53 PM on June 23, 2010


We have the advantage because the mini-app always allows us to answer first which would not be the case against the real-live Watson.

Yep, timing is by far the hardest part of the show. For good trivia players and people like quiz bowl vets, most Jeopardy questions are pretty straightforward. It's the buzzer race that's hard, since if you try to buzz too early you get a short lockout.

Nerves also play a big part which hampers your timing and recall. Bob Harris must really be a mind-Jedi because he talks about all these different strategies he goes through during a game and when I was on the whole thing was just a blur.
posted by kmz at 2:55 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Are you sure Watson's offline though?
"Over its three-year life, Watson stored the content of tens of millions of documents, which it now accessed to answer questions about almost anything. (Watson is not connected to the Internet; like all “Jeopardy!” competitors, it knows only what is already in its “brain.”"
31-23. Can't believe I spelled "minstrels" wrong.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:57 PM on June 23, 2010


kmz: ...when I was on...

A Jeopardy! contestant, here on MetaFilter?! Link to YouTube video or it didn't happen.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 2:59 PM on June 23, 2010


As I understand it, Watson is offline but trained and fed with material pulled from online sources. So you may as well assume he's got a copy of Wikipedia on DVD somewhere.
posted by pwnguin at 2:59 PM on June 23, 2010


It's the same set of questions each time; this is just a canned presentation in Flash. Hard to think of this a really 'Playing against I.B.M.’s question-answering supercomputer.' No offense to poster; just calling false advertising on the NYT.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:00 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well done, Watson. Well done. I imagine you're feeling pretty superior right now, even though my misspelling of "attache" was what earned you the crucial 5 points that won you the game. Nevertheless, I suppose you're feeling pretty proud of yourself. But answer me this, robot:

What is love?
posted by shmegegge at 3:01 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"That'd be 'don't hurt me' for the win, Alex."
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:02 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Suck it, Trebeck! I'll take The Penis Mightier for $1000.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:04 PM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's the same set of questions each time; this is just a canned presentation in Flash. Hard to think of this a really 'Playing against I.B.M.’s question-answering supercomputer.' No offense to poster; just calling false advertising on the NYT.

Well, if the questions are the same each time, the response would be as well if the memory bank is fixed, right? There would only be a philosophic difference between playing this is a canned presentation and playing this as a live demo with the exact same questions each time.
posted by griphus at 3:05 PM on June 23, 2010


"That'd be 'don't hurt me' for the win, Alex."

You failed to put your answer in the form of a question. Shmegegge wins.
posted by axiom at 3:07 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Funny... just yesterday I was sorting through a stack of spiral notebooks my mother had found in our attic. When I was in high school I faithfully logged my dreams every morning almost every day for almost 2 years, some entries were a page and a half long with 4 separate dreams.

The one that really stuck out, and one I have been pondering all day, involved a game of backgammon against a humanoid robot. It was androgynous, but still very much human. It proceeded to wipe the floor with me and I couldn't even as much as enjoy a move's advantage. The moment I put down a piece, it was already reaching to make its move, and I couldn't even plan a strategy since it kept doing something different than I expected (though it was obvious I was always doing exactly what it expected). In the journal I said that the robot beat me in 12 straight games, but I highly doubt I actually experienced all 12 games. It probably just felt that way, or something.

Anyhow, after the last game it said to me "The humans will always lose. We are far more advanced, and your brains are incapable of outsmarting us." The words certainly had a more universal sense, and I immediately understood mankind was being threatened.

Now, had I had the dream last night, I would have woken up in a puddle of sweat and had to explain to my boss why I have no intention of continuing to plan the IPv6 conversion project, and why I suddenly have the desire to be a rodeo clown. But, as a fearless 14 year old, I calmly responded as only I can hope I will if such a similar circumstance arises in the future:

I walked over like I was going to congratulate the device, and shamelessly pissed in its face, shorting the circuitry, and leaving it a worthless pile of sparks.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:08 PM on June 23, 2010 [8 favorites]


Interesting.

Although I find the framing of this as a contest a bit silly. Given the algorithm works - can I beat a supercomputer hooked up to a massive store of human information? Hmmm...

The drawbacks are obvious from playing with it for a few minutes though. "Sing a song about one of these, a sailor's bag for small articles" - odd sort of question, the 'about' implies the song is about the article rather than is a clue in itself about the article.

So - accounting for the 'odd' in the question, you can come up with 'ditty' bag. Whereas Watson comes up with 'Papa's got a brand new bag' or 'shanty' or 'sing along'.
'Ditty' being a distant second to the James Brown thing.

And it can't pull 'ascot' out for necktie, etc.

The straightforward stuff - parent company of cheese whiz being Kraft - pretty easy for it.
Well duh, give me a photographic memory of tens of millions of documents or google access and I'll wipe the floor with the machine (I did beat it though).
And I make human mistakes - Frito-lay owns Doritos (I only know because of Colbert) but apparently Pepsico owns Frito-lay so I'm wrong and the machine is right. Yeah, ok. So 'daddy' company means 'grand-daddy' or 'ultimate' owner, not a one level jump.

The real question is will we, or how will we, bend the language to support the way machines work and will it limit the scope of our thinking?
Will we ask different questions in different ways?

I sort of like the fuzziness in searches. Given it's not all porn all the time. You can stumble across some interesting bits of information. Almost like a metafilt...
posted by Smedleyman at 3:09 PM on June 23, 2010


"I would have answered knickerbockers."

Don't be that guy, Watson. Nobody likes that guy,
posted by doublehappy at 3:09 PM on June 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Meh. Watson's no EMERAC.
posted by The Bellman at 3:15 PM on June 23, 2010


Man, I tried to play the online game and frankly the "Answers" or whatever hardly made any sense to me at all. I find the Jeopardy "Answer/Question" format incredibly annoying. No one would actually answer the question "What is Blue Thunder?" with "This action flick starring Roy Scheider in a high-tech police helicopter was also briefly a TV series”

One of the "answers" I got when I played the other day was "This spicy fruit invented the telephone" and the "Question" was "Who is Alexander gram bell pepper" What. The. Fuck?

This would be, I think, more impressive if they used normal trivia questions that, you know made sense. Since the thing with AIs is that they tend to spit out nonsense. Here we have an AI that takes in nonsense questions and answers them. Or A/Q sessions that only make sense to Jeopardy fans. Oh well.

(As I understand, it can search the internet, right?)

Would that actually improve anything? The thing is, you could load all of wikipedia into this thing's databases. They would want all the useful information, without all the spam and garbage.
posted by delmoi at 3:17 PM on June 23, 2010


Watson is not connected to the Internet.

THEN WHO DID I JUST BEAT?
posted by doublehappy at 3:19 PM on June 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


kmz: ...when I was on...

A Jeopardy! contestant, here on MetaFilter?!


Two, right on here on MetaFilter, who happen to have been in this thread. I bet there are more MeFis who have done it besides kmz and me.

And what kmz said -- all the contestants are very, very good or they wouldn't have gotten past the killer tryout test. We all sat there when I was there, muttering the answers to each other as we watched the other shows being taped.

It's all about the buzzer. You have to wait for the flashing light, invisible to the folks at home, to go around the board after Alex has finished reading the answer. At that exact moment, you must buzz in ahead of the other contestants. Buzz earlier, and they lock you out for at least a full second, an eternity in Jeopardy!land.

It is a great show, though Alex seemed like an utter jerk in person. (And his staff clearly disliked him intensely.) Watson wouldn't pass the tryout test.
posted by bearwife at 3:19 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]




though Alex seemed like an utter jerk in person.

I asked him what he does before a show, and he said he likes to drink.

Not at all surprising, when you watch how socially awkward he is during Q/A.

Trying out for college tournament next year... any tips?
posted by karminai at 3:24 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the "answers" I got when I played the other day was "This spicy fruit invented the telephone" and the "Question" was "Who is Alexander gram bell pepper" What. The. Fuck?

That's from the "Before and After" category which is all about joining two separate answers. It's not tricky if you've pretty much ever watched the show at all. (Or played the Before and After Sporcle quizzes.) Yes, the Answer/Question thing is obviously a gimmick, but who cares?

The Batman and Robin Hood question was pretty bullshit though, because the phrasing was off.
posted by kmz at 3:25 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nerves also play a big part which hampers your timing and recall.

I can well imagine. I can holler at the TV with the best of 'em, but I'm pretty sure if I were actually on the show it would be "Oh, Oh! I totally know this! It's... dammit!" *boop-boop.*
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:26 PM on June 23, 2010


I bet there are more MeFis who have done it besides kmz and me.

Yep!

Alex seemed like an utter jerk in person. (And his staff clearly disliked him intensely.)

Really? I didn't get that impression. The staff seemed to like him fine, and he himself came off as highly eccentric more than anything. But I'm not always great at reading that kind of stuff.
posted by kmz at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2010



Trying out for college tournament next year... any tips?


Trivia memorization . . . lakes and rivers, state capitals, Canadian provinces and capitals and geographic features. There are lots of Android and Iphone apps to drill on.
posted by bearwife at 3:30 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was really hoping it was live so I could get a rematch. I misspelled bustle, which would've won the game.
posted by codacorolla at 3:31 PM on June 23, 2010


Guy Smiley appeared on Jeopardy! The quizmaster becomes the quizzed!
posted by doublehappy at 3:33 PM on June 23, 2010


It would be awesome if they coded it to give the Cliff Clavin response to Archibald Leach, Bernard Schwartz and Lucille LeSueur whenever it was stumped.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 3:34 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bob Harris must really be a mind-Jedi...

I was not familiar with Bob Harris until now. Wow ... what an interesting and accomplished person.
posted by ericb at 3:35 PM on June 23, 2010


I walked over like I was going to congratulate the device, and shamelessly pissed in its face, shorting the circuitry, and leaving it a worthless pile of sparks.
Ah, one of THOSE dreams. I'm guessing the computer had its own little joke on you after all? ;-)
posted by circular at 3:36 PM on June 23, 2010


Can't believe I spelled "minstrels" wrong.

Me too.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:39 PM on June 23, 2010


Ever see the episode where a poker player drops dead, and the ultimate cause was pollution in West Africa? -Bob Harris

Should I be watching CSI?
posted by doublehappy at 3:42 PM on June 23, 2010


What is love?

Never having to say your sorry.
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on June 23, 2010


*you're*
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on June 23, 2010


I was not familiar with Bob Harris until now. Wow ... what an interesting and accomplished person.

And he dates Jane Espenson! (Or at least they used to date. Dunno if they still are.)

I remember reading Prisoner of Trebekistan to prep for the show and slowly realizing that the "Jane" he was talking about was Jane Espenson, one of my favorite TV writers. It was a really cool worlds colliding type moment.

That's a great book, BTW, and highly recommended for anybody, even if you don't care about Jeopardy.
posted by kmz at 3:47 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


61-17 - IN YOUR, umm, CONSOLE?
posted by kcds at 3:59 PM on June 23, 2010


53/15. Suck it, Watson.
posted by stenseng at 4:00 PM on June 23, 2010


Trying out for college tournament next year... any tips?

As bearwife mentioned, list trivia is always good to go over. World capitals, island countries, Oscar winners, etc. Brush up on Shakespeare. Shakespeare almost always comes up somehow. Honestly, a lot of the Sporcle games are pretty darn great for helping with list trivia.

For the tryouts, try to have a fun story for the interview segment that's interesting but not too self-aggrandizing.
posted by kmz at 4:01 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing that this is possible at all--the language parsing it does is astounding, particularly with the punny clues--but this demo isn't very smart. I defeated it 74 to -5. But yeah, so much of the game is timing that it's sort of a silly toy.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:03 PM on June 23, 2010


I kicked its ass. But it's not bad.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:13 PM on June 23, 2010


Can anyone explain Jeopardy to me? I'm from the UK, and clips of it keep cropping up in US movies and TV shows, and I just don't get it.

I mean, this Wikipedia article claims that Merv Griffin and his wife came up with the idea of a show where you give the answer to contestants, and they provide the question:
She fired a couple of answers to me: "5,280" – and the question of course was "How many feet in a mile?". Another was "79 Wistful Vista"; that was Fibber and Mollie McGee's address
Well, yes, that is a good idea. But Jeopardy isn't that at all. "The greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago in this African country" isn't an answer, it's a question trying to sound vaguely like an answer (but not succeeding). And the 'question' -- "What is Egypt" -- is clearly an answer. Not a question.

So Jeopardy is a straight Q&A quiz, masquerading as a A&Q quiz. The only difference the 'concept' makes to anything is that everyone has to artifically tag question words onto their answers. Which drives me bonkers.

Why doesn't it drive America bonkers too?
posted by sleepcrime at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2010




Why doesn't it drive America bonkers too?

Wait, America isn't bonkers? Are you sure?
posted by straight at 4:43 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Sphinx thinks Jeopardy is a sign of the times.

Have you ever seen a little sedan with like five mattresses strapped to the roof? Or a hatchback with just something enormous sticking out the back, like a few feet onto the street? This is the comic version of that.
posted by griphus at 4:44 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's not kid ourselves. None of us played against Watson. No way Watson was designed to simultaneously play however many thousands connect to that flash app at once. And why would they connect us to Watson, to recompute the same answers to the same questions every time?

You played against a flash application. Presumably, the answers were computed beforehand by Watson, but even then, we have no idea of Watson's performance. Also, before you get too excited, realize that the questions were picked by Watson's creators.

It's hard to determine it's capabilities from the almost meaningless demo, though the story is interesting.
posted by guanxi at 4:46 PM on June 23, 2010


Question: Snoopy's owner who's one of the most poisonous spiders in the United States.

Watson: "Charlie Brown Recluse"
"What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown Recluse"
"He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown Recluse"
"It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown Recluse"
"Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown Recluse"
posted by klausman at 4:54 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why doesn't it drive America bonkers too?

Because it is difficult and fast moving and gives us lifelong nerds/geeks a place where we can make money and win glory.

And the actual categories and "answers" are far more clever and amusing than the examples provided in this post.

You have to watch this game. Have you watched it? You will be hooked too.
posted by bearwife at 4:54 PM on June 23, 2010


Beat it 50-13. It said it "wasn't sure" to a surprising number/variety of questions.

This new dynamic duo is made up of Bruce Wayne's superhero self and a famous bandit from Sherwood Forest.

Watson: "What is Lincoln Green Revolution? No? I was also considering 'Ribbon Tree Farm'? Dang."
posted by Robin Kestrel at 4:58 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seems to be this Watson. Probably not this Watson.
posted by Evilspork at 5:06 PM on June 23, 2010


Yes, I can beat Watson. Easily. This needs to be more challenging. Maybe Holmes should play instead.

Or Mycroft. Now he'd be tough to beat.
posted by misha at 5:21 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain Jeopardy to me? ... She fired a couple of answers to me: "5,280" – and the question of course was "How many feet in a mile?". Well, yes, that is a good idea. But Jeopardy isn't that at all.

Well, I can argue semantics and say this is a perfectly valid Q&A exchange ...

* What is Egypt?
* It's an African country where the greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago.

... and you can say, "Well, the word order sucks." And sometimes it does. But keep in mind that there's a category that frames each question, so the category for the question above may have been "Dog Breed History," which lends the exchange a little more semantic sense. So, there's that.

But Jeopardy has been running since 1964, and has changed significantly. The answers really did used to be "5,280." And it was a cute hook.

Then Jeopardy got the rep of being the most difficult game show on television. It has been and still is orders of magnitude more difficult than any other popular quiz show on American television (I'm unaware of British television game shows). To keep that rep, and still be popular, the style of the show's wording has changed quite a bit over time, to where it is today.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:19 PM on June 23, 2010


40-14, and that was partially because I misspelled "bustle."

Watson you fool. I'm drunk and mop the floor during pub quizes. Don't eff with this.
posted by piratebowling at 6:32 PM on June 23, 2010


49 - 8; get down. I actually was just coming in here to make a joke about "Lincoln Green Revolution" but I see I got beaten to it.
posted by penduluum at 6:49 PM on June 23, 2010


How exactly are people (mis)spelling bustle?
posted by doublehappy at 7:01 PM on June 23, 2010


This isn't entirely realistic. In a real match-up, Watson would beat anybody to the buzzer.
posted by Flashman at 7:01 PM on June 23, 2010


Pfffft. Considering how many of us have taken the test by now, if Watson were so smart, there's no way he'd be unsure of any of the answers!
posted by crunchland at 7:03 PM on June 23, 2010


Weird, when I played Watson it took forever... we're calling it a tie at 59/59 and picking back up tomorrow.
posted by butterstick at 7:05 PM on June 23, 2010


How exactly are people (mis)spelling bustle?

I'll fess up. I forgot the t and added an extra s, thinking that the article of clothing was a homiphone for commotion, rather than spelled the same.
posted by piratebowling at 7:22 PM on June 23, 2010


In a real match-up, Watson would beat anybody to the buzzer.

Actually, they note in the article that Watson is bad with short clues because he doesn't have time to come up with an answer in time (since he'll only buzz in if he's got an answer of reasonable certainty).
posted by uncleozzy at 7:35 PM on June 23, 2010


* What is Egypt?
* It's an African country where the greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago.


Except, you know, that's now how you would answer the question at all. You would say "it's the country in Africa with the pyramids and the Nile. It borders the Gaza Strip and Israel, the president is Hosni Mubarak"

That the greyhound originated there five thousand years ago has hardly anything to do with what Egypt is, for the most part. It's not really an answer to the question at all.

And yes I'm an American and it annoys the hell out of me.
posted by delmoi at 7:36 PM on June 23, 2010


That the greyhound originated there five thousand years ago has hardly anything to do with what Egypt is

Except, as I said, it's framed with a category, and in my example, the category was likely something like "Dog Breed History." Within that context, it makes perfect sen ...

... oh, what the hell, IT'S A GAME. Go with it, you ice-hearted protocol droid. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:53 PM on June 23, 2010


How exactly are people (mis)spelling bustle?

I'll fess up. I forgot the t and added an extra s, thinking that the article of clothing was a homiphone for commotion, rather than spelled the same.


To be honest, I've never heard of a 'bustle' as an article of clothing, so I probably had a spelling advantage, but it meant I got the question wrong.
posted by doublehappy at 8:40 PM on June 23, 2010


Why doesn't it drive America bonkers too?

When a really smart person gets the answer right, but doesn't put it in the form of a question, I get to laugh and call them a moron despite the fact that I had no idea what the answer was. I like that.

(This happened all the time on Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, where the contestants were always thick as bricks. Unfortunately, that show wasn't nearly as fascistic about the rules as the regular version, so they'd usually take pity and give the dummies the points. That drove me bonkers.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:10 PM on June 23, 2010


Is this the thread where I brag about my score?
posted by flotson at 9:34 PM on June 23, 2010


The answers really did used to be "5,280." And it was a cute hook (...) the style of the show's wording has changed quite a bit over time, to where it is today.

Ah, I thought this might have been the case. Thanks for the explanations. You know, this makes me realise that there's a cool gameshow idea in combining the original Jeopardy with Mr & Mrs (kinda UK version of the The Newlywed Game). Give two players an answer, then give them points when their questions match. e.g.

Host: The answer is '3'. Write down your questions... OK, let's see if they match. Bob?
Bob: I've got "How many sides does a triangle have?"
Host: Good stuff. And Mike?
Mike: I've put "How many germ layers would you find in animals with bilateral symmetry?"
Bob: You spectacular idiot.
posted by sleepcrime at 2:27 AM on June 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was disappointed at the lack of Ghostbusters 2.
posted by rokusan at 3:09 AM on June 24, 2010


30-18... Would've been 40-18 except Alex wouldn't accept "ditty" when he was looking for "ditty bag". Fuck you, Alex.
posted by antifuse at 6:46 AM on June 24, 2010


68-2. I got the high-waisted dress, cheez wiz and tympani questions wrong. Watson only got one of those three.

Disappointing that you can't refresh and try again. :P
posted by zarq at 7:00 AM on June 24, 2010


I found this part of the article particularly troubling:
" In another game, Watson’s logic appeared to fall down some odd semantic rabbit hole, repeatedly giving the answer “Tommy Lee Jones” — the name of the Hollywood actor — to several clues that had nothing to do with him."
This means something.
posted by komara at 7:18 AM on June 24, 2010


Yes. I beat Watson. 28 to 13.

I really flubbed some answers and I'm too slow to be on TV. :)
posted by kalessin at 9:00 AM on June 24, 2010


It's actually Tommy Lee Jones inside the black box, typing stuff and looking up wikipedia.
posted by storybored at 9:15 AM on June 24, 2010


The answer-question format is goofy, no doubt about it, and results in lots of things that would be completely unnatural as real answers to questions.

But it's Jeopardy's distinctive twist. It creates some challenge in simply parsing the convolutions of the clue; it creates some tension in knowing that contestants can go down just for forgetting to phrase the response as a question (typically, Alex lets them off with a warning in the first round, but in Double Jeopardy, they really get penalized.)

I think it's played a role in Jeopardy's success by making it more interesting TV, and I'd rather have a goofy mostly smart quiz show than no smart quiz show at all.

Ditto kmz... read Bob Harris' Prisoner of Trebekistan even if you have no interest in Jeopardy. It's a funny, moving memoir touching on the nature of memory, knowledge, wisdom. Warning: you may end up with an interest in Jeopardy afterwards, and start doing things like maintaining a wiki page of Jeopardy contestants from a community website you frequent.

I'm looking forward to the Watson challenge, mostly to see the return of past champions. Not so much for Watson. Unless they've been hiding the robotic head of Philip K. Dick and are building an android to stand behind the podium. That would be cool.
posted by Zed at 9:28 AM on June 24, 2010


Hell, yeah, I dusted it. Perhaps because I actually was a Jeopardy! contestant?

How did you do?
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on June 24, 2010


Well, zarq, I led by a lot after single jeopardy round, did fine in double jeopardy round, and missed the final question, which was about clowns, not a strong category for me.

I won a lovely computer, along with some other rather fun gifts, and my husband and brother and I had a blast also going to Universal Studios and Disneyland, after which my husband and I drove down to San Diego and had more fun going to the zoo and SeaWorld.

Except for losing my longstanding liking for Alex, it was a blast.
posted by bearwife at 11:36 AM on June 24, 2010


Was there NOONE who saw Metropolis and didn't find the evil Maria just a ...tiny.. bit alluring?

"Where's the most unusual place you've ever made whoopee, Watson?"

It's already an incredible, fun achievement, and one day will be the kind of pocket sidekick that Don Quixote could only dream of...

PS: IBM was wise to forego naming The Box "Sherlock" ... imagine the horde of crowbar-wielding fans at the doors.
posted by Twang at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2010


IBM was wise to forego naming The Box "Sherlock" ...

I suspect that you are aware that IBM naming this computer "Watson" has to do with the fact that they are paying homage the legendary 'Head of IBM,' Thomas J. Watson, Sr. As well research projects at IBM are conducted at the Watson Research Center (Yorktown Heights, NY, Hawthorne, NY and Cambrige, MA).
posted by ericb at 3:21 PM on June 24, 2010


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