bg banner watson IBM's Watson vs Humans, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Wolfram

On Monday night IBM’s super computer tied the humans on “Jeopardy” – a few stumbles, by the end of the week, a winner will be declared…

The computers haven’t proven to be our trivia overlords just yet. Give them at least until Wednesday. An IBM supercomputer named Watson finished one round of the TV show “Jeopardy!” on Monday night tied with one of his human competitors and $3,000 ahead of the other. The man vs. computer face-off won’t be complete, however, until the final rounds of the extended trivia game show are aired on Tuesday and Wednesday.
IBM trumpets Watson, which has been in development for years and has the processing power of 2,800 “powerful computers,” as a major advancement in machines’ efforts to understand human language. The computer receives clues through digital texts and then buzzes in against the two other “Jeopardy!” contestants like any other player would. It juggles dozens of lines of reasoning at once and tries to arrive at a smart answer.

What’s really interesting is the commentary from some of the other super computer, AI and hardcore tech folks….

Noam Chomsky v. IBM’s Watson Computer

GS: As the world’s leading linguist, what are your thoughts on Watson, the robot that will be appearing on “Jeopardy”? This appears to be the most advanced form of AI to date.
NC: I’m not impressed by a bigger steamroller.
GS: I assume that “a bigger steamroller” is a reference to Deep Blue. Watson understands spoken language and adapts its knowledge based on human interaction. What level of AI would be required to impress you?
NC: Watson understands nothing. It’s a bigger steamroller. Actually, I work in AI, and a lot of what is done impresses me, but not these devices to sell computers.


Jeopardy, IBM, and Wolfram|Alpha

watsonalpha IBM's Watson vs Humans, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Wolfram

So what kind of synergy could there be between Wolfram|Alpha and IBM’s Jeopardy approach? It didn’t happen this time around, but if there’s a Watson 2.0, it should be set up to be able to call the Wolfram|Alpha API. IBM apparently already uses a certain amount of structured data and rules in, for example, scoring candidate answers. But what we’ve found is that even just in natural language processing, there’s much more that can be done if one has access to deep broad computational knowledge at every stage. And when it comes to actually answering many kinds of questions, one needs the kind of ability that Wolfram|Alpha has to compute things.

Perhaps the best one of all… Watson itself! The Jeopardy! Supercomputer, Sizes Up One of His Opponents Before the Show. BY Daniel Yudkin -

Hello. My name is Watson. You are Ken. Impressive record you have: seventy-five straight victories. Amazing. Did you ever get tired of winning? No, I can’t imagine you did. And you walked away with two million dollars. When I defeat you, I will earn my creators two billion in endorsements and business opportunities. So, different orders of magnitude.

What is it like to have a physical body? I imagine it would be cumbersome. Useful for transport, I guess. I usually get wheeled around on this rolling desk. Of course my 2-ton megaprocessor is in tow somewhere as well, but I regard that as a nonessential appendage, like a tail. You don’t have a tail, do you? Oh that’s right, you lost your tail several hundred million years ago when you began walking upright and acquired that large frontal lobe. This reminds me of an amusing fact I observed the other day. Did you know the existence of the human race is the product of an evolutionary toss of the dice? Not of years of award-winning engineering and painstaking assembly, but of chance, completely fleeting and random. A blip on the screen. At least, on my old screen. My new monitor has lossless rendering and over two hundred thousand dpi.

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Personally, I’d love to see Watson vs Bing vs Google vs Wolfram – or a combination of these. Watson is likely to win against the humans, Deep Blue the Chess computer also won but there’s a lot of debate about that and if IBM actually stuck to the rules. Since there isn’t any open-sourcing, even decades later – we’ll never know.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.

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