IBM’s “Watson” Computer Plays “Jeopardy!”

AP reports that IBM is testing a new computer called “Watson” (after IBM’s founder) that will be a contestant on the “Jeopardy!” TV game show. The computer has already won a practice round:

The system, which is powered by 10 racks of IBM servers running the Linux operating system and has 15 terabytes of random-access memory, or RAM, has been in the works for four years. It has digested encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, news, movie scripts and more, IBM says. It has access to the equivalent of 200 million pages of content. It is not connected to the Internet, so it does not do Web searches.

The company says Watson rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language — rather than computer code — with speed, accuracy and confidence. Unlike earlier computers, it can deal with “Jeopardy’s!” subtleties of language, including puns and riddles.

IBM scientist David Ferrucci, a leader of the Watson team, said last month that using “Jeopardy!” to develop the computer system “is going to drive the technology in the right directions.”

“It asks all kinds of things,” he said. “It has the confidence aspect — don’t answer if you don’t think you’re right. You also have to do it really quickly.”

Watson is reminiscent of IBM’s famous Deep Blue computer, which defeated chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997. But while chess is well-defined and mathematical, “Jeopardy!” presents a more open-ended challenge.

My guess is that technologies like this will find their way into “the cloud” and that they’ll eventually be deployed to automate a great many tasks and jobs (call centers, customer service, tech support) throughout organizations (see my previous post on Google, Cloud Computing and Machine Learning).  According to the article, the episode with the computer will air on Feb 14-16.


Singularity Hub has a video from Engadget that shows Watson in action (highly recommended).  Watson seems spookily reminiscient of HAL.

Here’s also an older video from YouTube:

4 thoughts on “IBM’s “Watson” Computer Plays “Jeopardy!”

  1. This is a prototype of a semantic UI. Once it makes it’s way out of the lab it’s going to turbocharge the automation effect because it will enable software to perform nearly all “service” level jobs, such as store clerks, fast food order takers, and of course high level “service” jobs like lawyer, doctor, accountant, stock advisor, etc.

  2. So what direction to I steer my child in. Since they will not be needed in the future for 50% of today’s jobs. I am pushing multi-discipline science, but I am not sure if that will help.

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