Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Watson- A.I. Jeopardy Champ?

Jeopardy! is one of my all-time favorite shows.

My Uncle Dave was on the show in the 80s & I would like to play one day, when I feel I've crammed sufficient knowledge into my skull. Right now, the main categories that make me cringe in ignorance are things like opera, Shakespeare, Broadway (basically, theater in general), and geography can be tough. Some categories pop up that are totally bizarre, too. Even in categories that aren't my strong suite, though, I can usually manage to get a question or two correct.

Unfortunately, human brain-based general knowledge abilities are on the verge of becoming obsolete. The Machines are now taking over trivia game shows, as they are doing with the rest of human civilization:

IBM.com: Watson

I was watching an episode of Nova last nite about the development of Watson. In trial rounds, the computer was crushing the humans. The episode, explaining how the computer & it's software worked, pretty much blew my mind.

Smartest Machine on Earth

Tonight, I was watching Watson win the 2nd Jeopardy! game vs. a couple of human champs... by tens of thousands of points!

I thought "This is ridiculous, this system is obviously far superior to humans." I didn't realize that in the 1st game last nite, human Brad Rutter tied the computer! So... it is possible to beat that infernal creation (maybe)!

Digital 'intelligence' of this caliber is simply amazing, and will create unimaginable new applications. However, there is something to be said for the element of personality to define a being. Despite this bewildering technology, intelligence & knowledge are only a part of the countless phenomena that make up consciousness. That is what makes George Lucas's droid duo in Star Wars so appealing- they each have a personality.

Being able to formulate Jeopardy! answers is a quantum leap, but it's still nothing more than a machine that synthesizes data. When computers or robots are able to engage in small talk or make me laugh out loud, like an episode of South Park or Stephen Colbert, then I'll be impressed. Such advancements are possible, but I think it's a much harder bridge to cross than Watson's function- strictly compiling & analyzing factual knowledge. So, there!


Here is a graphic I made tonite after watching humans stand in defeat next to a video screen that serves as the facade for a massive computer system. I felt the need to depict the coming Robocalypse™- led by the superior intellect of Watson itself.

click to enlarge
A stupid robot couldn't make something like cool like this.

1 comment:

Michael Watts said...

I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.