Sunday, February 06, 2011


I was asked what I think will happen when Watson takes on the human champions on Jeopardy!.

The truth is, I don't know enough about how AI works to be able to predict. I'm also not sure about a couple of more mechanical points - is it fixed so Watson's ability to ring in is balanced to human response times? And can Watson read the questions itself, or does it have to hear Alex read it?

I expect that it will depend a lot on the format of the questions. Trickier wording may well confound the computer, but anything straightforward will be a cinch.



At 9:09 AM, February 07, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

Short of time right now, Ridger, but the condensed version of my thoughts is that Watson probably has similar shortcomings to those of translating computer programs, which are able to handle simple prose but not more complex constructions (e.g., subject following predicate is often mistaken for the direct object).

And I won't even address what garbage computers spew when faced with translating poetry -- I have samples that boggle the mind ;-))) With any luck, it means our professional translating days still aren't numbered.

At 12:41 PM, February 07, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

No, I don't think machine translation is a big threat. It's fine for deciding if you need to hire a real translator, but higher level texts and machines don't mix. Yet.

At 3:36 PM, February 07, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

Quick answer to the two questions in the second graf:

Watson can't "hear". When Alex begins reading the question to the other two contestants (and they can visually read it too), Watson will be provided with the question. It can, thus, start processing immediately.

Watson will be given a signal when Alex is done reading, at the same time that the humans are allowed to buzz in. Watson will be able to trigger a buzz at that same point. Watson's decision to buzz will kick a physical mechanism, so it buzzes in in the same manner as the humans. It has the advantage of no delay after the signal in sending the return signal to press the button, but it still has to press a physical button. The humans, on the other hand, can try to anticipate when Alex is about to finish — because Watson can't hear, it doesn't know how far along Alex is until it gets the "done" signal.

At 7:23 PM, February 08, 2011 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

Sounds like the ringing in won't be a deciding factor, then.

I'm really interested in seeing how Watson does - especially if they don't change the style of questions.

At 10:28 PM, February 08, 2011 Blogger Barry Leiba had this to say...

I've told my TiVo to snag 'em.


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