Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watson's Wits

This past week on America's favorite trivia game Jeopardy, IBM introduced their newest computer innovation, Watson. This super computer is the first of it's kind, and is no ordinary computing machine. For three days Watson competed against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of Jeopardy's greatest champions in a battle of human intellect versus human innovation. Watson is the first computer designed with enough depth and intelligence with the ability to answer specific question based on the knowledge of word association. Watson has the uncanny ability to answer and analyze questions with specific meanings (like those on the game show jeopardy) in a timely and correct fashion. Watson has no connection to the internet or outside resources and relies heavily on a vast bank of words and phrases he can use to piece together specific answers. While he did stumble, Watson did not fail to impress, answering the first 10 of 12 questions right on his second appearance. Even perhaps the greatest Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings  was no match for Watson's intellect. While he and Brad Rutter gave Watson a run for his money on night 3, Watson still dominated the two humans in the three night showdown. While Ken Jennings commends those at IBM for the feat, his frustration during the game show was obvious; I'm sure it can't be easy being one of the smartest men on the planet and being out done by a machine. While his wits are Jeopardy impressive, IBMers hope that Watson's purpose goes far beyond the scope of trivia entertainment. IBM experts hope they can use Watson's technology to solve 'real world' problems and do so with a speed that no man or computer has ever been able to do it. Watson instantly accesses a massive IBM database of human knowledge that he uses to rapidly locate the best possible answer for specific questions; his knowledge is not internet based, but based upon a cognitive ability to deduce an answer from key words and clues. Though Watson experienced some glitches, such as confusion and it's inability to recognize certain scenarios of the Jeopardy game state, his overall success brings to light the pure brilliance of human innovation and the incredible science of technology. 

1 comment:

  1. I watched Jeopardy this week too! I was secretly rooting for Watson while my roommates were completely against him. I guess much of their anger came from the fact that he was a computer. Though, the way I thought about it was that this computer was made by humans. Even if none of them had the knowledge of Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, it was still their combined knowledge that helped make Watson possible. I doubt either Jennings or Rutter have the knowledge to create a database so precise and responsive as Watson, so it was really just a creative battle of wits and trivia factoids.