18 February 2011

Elementary, My Dear Watson...

After hearing that a supercomputer named Watson beat two of Jeopardy!'s champions, I turned to YouTube to look for footage of the show and found instead this PBS Newshour story that focuses on how Watson's software, a new approach in "machine learning", allows it to understand human speech.
Reporter Miles O'Brien: It amazed me how Watson gets all the jokes, wordplay, and puns that are hallmarks of Jeopardy! -- and Watson gets smarter with each answer.
David Ferrucci, lead designer: It learns, based on the right answers, how to adjust its interpretations. And now, from not being confident, it starts to get more confident in the right answers, and then it can truly jump in.
O'Brien: So, Watson surprises you?
Ferrucci: Oh, yeah, absolutely! In fact, people say, "Oh, why did he get that one wrong?" I don't know. "Why did he get that one right?" I don't know.
O'Brien: Computers that learn, understand, and even surprise us? What could go wrong with that?

"Hello, Hal, do you read me? Do you read me, Hal?"
"Affirmative, Dave. I read you."
"Hal, open the pod bay doors, please, Hal."
"I'm sorry, Dave; I can't do that." 
I did finally find coverage of the match, though. First part is here.  The first part of the challenge has Trebek showing the audience footage of his visit to the computer.

The 21st century will be a very interesting one, I think.

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