Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watson (Technology)

He doesn't look as smart as Jude Law.

Trivia dorks beware, your hobby is in danger of being taken over by computers!!!  This is more or less true if you were to pit yourself up against this beast, named Watson.  Watson is a giant room with a bunch of servers hooked up together to compete in Jeopardy against former champions Ken Jennings (the guy that won 74 games in a row) and Brad Rutter (the guy that won the most money on the show, three and a quarter million).  It was designed with the intent to see if humans could program a computer to understand the human language well enough to answer some of the tricky, wordy, intuitive questions that Trebek could dish out.

So when a question is asked, it is essentially text messaged (or whatever) to Watson through what I can imagine as a bunch of tubes and then it tries to guess the answer.  A bunch of bars appear at the bottom of the screen to give the audience its top three answers and the certainty of each one.  However, its guess is as good as anyone's.  When answering a question about trains, it had 97% "confidence" that "finis" was the right answer, unfortunately; the very human trait of "thinking hard about something makes it true" does not work in Jeopardy.  Furthermore, it is in its own computer world as far as the game goes.  It does not know if one of the other contestants even answer the question previously.  In one instance, Ken answered a question incorrectly with the answer "What is the 20s?"  Watson then quickly buzzed in with a moderate "confidence" and said "What is the 1920s?"  Copying your neighbors work does not always work in high school and I think that translates well to games shows too.  Stick that logic in your mainframe and process it, Watson!

What is NO STUPID!!!!???? You're not human, no matter how much improper punctuation you use!!! 
Speaking of being in its own computer world we also see a flaw in his association with the category name when pertaining to the question asked.  During final Jeopardy, the category was "US Cities."  Watson answered the question with the response "What is Toronto?"  What!?  Its not even in the US.  Nice try, supercomputer, now paint yourself yellow with uncertainty (yes the color of his avatar changes based on how stupid he acts).  He made a similar mistake on the final day, he was asked about a review that the New Yorker did on a publication of sorts and responded with a person.

Deep Blue on Futurama.

It was a little upsetting when Trebek responded to Watson when it repeated Ken Jennings wrong answer.  Its not like its going to respond.  "Oh, sorry Alex I was too busy doing random calculations to pay attention to Ken."  It is not some guy that is playing Jeopardy, its a computer screen with a man voice!  Changing it to a woman voice does not make it a woman!  However, it does have an attraction to women apparently.  Watson appeared on Conan, where as a guest host, it tore into Andy Richter and shared its sexual experiences that it had with his wife.  Once again, Watson has advanced computers far beyond that of his older counterpart, Deep Blue (the worlds best chess playing computer, which in turn makes it the computer least likely to find a date for the prom).  It could only manage to be a guest appearance on the cartoon "Futurama" with less lines.

As far as everything goes, Watson proves that humans can create complex algorithms that exceed their own creators expectations, however; I do not believe this proves that we are anywhere close to AI.  Watson is a search algorithm, nothing more.  It is not smart because it is not intuitive.  Every time it answered a question wrong, it was way off.  There is still much to be done to perfect Watson even though its already so advanced and impressive.  Unfortunately, I am tough to impress, call me when someone programs a computer to win "Ninja Warrior."

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