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We are officially living in the Future
December 17, 2010 9:30 PM   Subscribe

The Watson Artificial Intelligence system has been discussed on MeFi before. The Jeopardy AI will get a chance to prove its skills in early February when it squares off against Jeopardy titans Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter for the prize of a million dollars.
posted by grandsham (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Finally, we will know whether we are to welcome our computer, replicant, or alien overlords.
posted by zippy at 9:37 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love Jeopardy, and I watched almost every game of Ken Jennings' incredible run. This is going to be absolutely amazing.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:49 PM on December 17, 2010


So what's the AI's humorous personal anecdote going to be? Something about funny-tasting power glitches?
posted by longsleeves at 9:54 PM on December 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some sort of drinking debauchery story on a night out with the Large Hadron Collider.
posted by mannequito at 10:17 PM on December 17, 2010


So what's the AI's humorous personal anecdote going to be?

Alex Trebek: Blah blah anecdote yadda blah. Watson?

Watson: "SUCK IT TREBEK. REINITIALIZING NAME. $NAME <- TURD FERGUSON."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:18 PM on December 17, 2010 [25 favorites]


So when they built Watson........when they say that it's a new computer........what do they mean exactly?

Is Watson mostly software? Voice/pattern recognition-->what are you asking-->what is the answer-->present the answer...

Or did they actually build hardware here as well? Is Watson just running on off-the-shelf stuff?
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:20 PM on December 17, 2010


Is Watson mostly software [...] Or did they actually build hardware here as well? Is Watson just running on off-the-shelf stuff?

Watson is primarily a software platform. From what I could tell in the video, IBM used their Blue Gene/P supercomputer platform to do all of the computational lifting, and probably a (very) large disk array to store its knowledge base.

So it's not Depp Blue-style custom hardware, but a 72-rack, ~300,000 processor supercomputer is not exactly "off the shelf."
posted by grandsham at 10:38 PM on December 17, 2010


spike-et al Apparently it's running on IBM's "Blue Gene" hardware which as far as I understand it is a massively parallel clustering supercomputer architecture.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:43 PM on December 17, 2010


Alec Trebek: Depp Blue, you're the worst Artificial Intelligence I've ever heard of.

Depp Blue: But you have heard of me, haven't you?
posted by tspae at 11:17 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, please program one of the answers to be 'Febtober'. Oh, please.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:24 PM on December 17, 2010


There's no voice recognition; Watson receives the clues as text.
posted by pmurray63 at 12:02 AM on December 18, 2010


I can't wait to see what Watson spends his winnings on.
posted by item at 12:12 AM on December 18, 2010


If Watson wins, it all goes to charity. If a human wins, half goes to charity.
posted by pmurray63 at 12:44 AM on December 18, 2010


–Watson, can you tell us about your hardware?
–my disks are SCSI ... which is how your mother likes it, Trebek
posted by zippy at 1:02 AM on December 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


If I was Ken Jennings and managed to beat Watson, first thing I'd yell would be: "I'll SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!"
posted by fantodstic at 1:03 AM on December 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


In the first example answer on the video, I entered it into google and it spit back Queen Wilhelmina. Have it answer the google result in the form of a question, and it is answered in .42 seconds. Off the shelf Google might not be as good as Watson, but then again I can't afford Watson and it can't make phone calls.

So if Watson wins, I'd like to see it up against Google (and maybe Bing)
posted by birdherder at 1:19 AM on December 18, 2010


Could Watson self-destruct like Wolf?
posted by quadog at 2:17 AM on December 18, 2010


These things crop up from time to time but a good logic bomb usually knocks them back.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:55 AM on December 18, 2010


All I know is if it starts singing, RUN!
posted by tommasz at 6:06 AM on December 18, 2010


Here's a very informative (20+ minute) presentation on DeepQA by Dr. David Ferrucci who leads the project. He discusses the application of Watson and the challenge of Jeopardy, but also other applications for open domain question answering, such as ranking confidence levels of medical diagnoses.
posted by edverb at 7:33 AM on December 18, 2010


They should enter Wilfram Alpha.
posted by Artw at 8:04 AM on December 18, 2010


In the first example answer on the video, I entered it into google and it spit back Queen Wilhelmina. Have it answer the google result in the form of a question, and it is answered in .42 seconds. Off the shelf Google might not be as good as Watson, but then again I can't afford Watson and it can't make phone calls.

So if Watson wins, I'd like to see it up against Google (and maybe Bing)


The thing is, Google doesn't give you "Queen Wilhelmina." It gives you pages and pages of results, and you — as an intelligent English-speaking human with common sense — pull out the phrase "Queen Wilhelmina" from those results and decide that it works as an answer.

That's the hard part. Retrieving texts is easy. Pulling individual relevant facts out of those texts is a bitch.

(Okay, the first question looks like a gimme, because "Queen Wilhelmina" is the title of the top Google hit. But "give the title of the top Google hit" would fail miserably as a general strategy. It fails on the second question from the video — you get "The Russo-Japanese War" instead of "Theodore Roosevelt."

Now wait a minute, you say, obviously "The Russo-Japanese war" isn't the right answer. They're looking for the name of a President! But that's the point. You know they're looking for the name of a President because you actually understand the question. And getting a computer to simulate that sort of understanding is really hard!)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:59 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


as though he helped train our future robot overlords

If Watson can reliably compute an answer in about a quarter second then it seems like it would be unbeatable if it adopted your friend's method of buzzing immediately before knowing the answer. Seems like there should be some kind of buzzer handicap so that the computer can't always buzz in a microsecond after the gate opens.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:05 AM on December 18, 2010


Actually, if Watson is this good, why ISN'T it being used in search engines?
posted by empath at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2010


The only reason any for-profit ever makes any decision. They think they can make more money off of it some other way.

(Just a guess: Given the choice, would you rather compete with Google or just write yourself a nice cushy contact with the DoD? )
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:25 AM on December 18, 2010


Actually, if Watson is this good, why ISN'T it being used in search engines?

I think right now the problem is probably one of scalability - the problem domain of answering Jeopardy! questions is a lot smaller than the one faced by an Internet search engine, and this incarnation requires a supercomputer just to tackle one problem at a time. I wouldn't be surprised if question-answering software agents become a larger part of search engines in the next few years.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:40 AM on December 18, 2010


I predict disaster:

Alex Trebek: The category is Sports. For $200: This tennis term is believed to have derived from the French expression "l'oeuf", meaning "the egg".

Watson buzzes in.

Alex Trebek: Watson, your response.

Watson: What is love?

Alex Trebek: That's correct! And the play goes to you.

Watson begins to tremble slightly.

Watson: What is love?

Alex Trebek: [confused] Yes, very good Watson. But it's your turn to pick the category.

Watson begins to emit a low whine, trembling increases.

Watson: What is love??

Alex Trebek: [looks offstage] Gentlemen, there appears to be a problem with Watson.

Watson begins to shake violently and belch up acrid clouds of black smoke.

Watson: WHAT... IS... LOOOOVE???

Alex Trebek: Ladies and gentlemen, at this time I think it might be prudent to clear the studio. [starts to remove lavalier microphone]

Watson: WHAT??? IS??? LOOOOOOOOVE?????

Watson explodes. Everyone and everything in the Jeopardy studio is consumed by fire.
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


WHAT??? IS??? LOOOOOOOOVE?????
posted by hippybear at 12:58 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Baby, don't hurt me!
posted by faceonmars at 2:32 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just hope they don't teach it to play video games.
posted by Evilspork at 5:31 PM on December 18, 2010


I've heard that Watson always wanted to say it. Yes, 'make it a truly daily double, Alex.'

Victory WILL be Ken's!
posted by Mael Oui at 7:38 PM on December 18, 2010


I actually work on the Watson project, and while I can't tell you guys a whole lot lest the IBM ninjas come for me while I sleep, I think I can safely say two things:

1) As nebulawindphone says, the hard part is in making Watson understand language well enough pick the answer out of all those promising results that a search turns up, not the turning up of the results.

2) We have heard every single Connery joke it is possible to make at this point. Every. Single. One. Over and over. And over.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 5:32 PM on December 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


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