Posted by: Jack Vaughan
IBM’s Watson complex language analysis capability is on display on quiz show ”Jeopardy” this week and it is looking a little bleak for the Mudville Nine, or rather, the human side. Jeopardy champs such as Ken Jennings look like the feeble townspeople in ”The Blob” as Watson, so far, answering most of the questions, and mostly correctly, plows ahead heedless of the humans.
Watson concurrently processes vast quantities of data – analyzing it what looks to me like real time. Watson is a big machine (bigger than the front-line of the Green Bay Packers, anyway) specially programmed to address the scientific problem of “Question and Answering” ( “Q & A”). Hopefully, some day, this will find good use in diagnosing human health problems.
Jeopardy calls for a number of skills. Watson may have an unexpected edge in one of those skills, – and it might not be cognition. The son of one of my computer trade press mentors was once on Jeopardy, and handily won his first evening on the show. The second evening, he lost by a large margin – not because he didn’t know the answers, but because another contestant was damn fast on the buzzer. In my household, this week, a few of the family members seemed to do better at times than the Jeopardy champions or Watson, but we did not have to resort to any buzzers to lodge our answer – which leads me to conclude that the ‘buzzer’ is the issue in Watson’s large lead.
For now, it is painful to watch the vaunted Jeopardy champs’ sagging shoulders. Tune in tonight – maybe Godzilla will come to humanity’s rescue!
Our take: Speaking as a techno-dweeb: ”Go Watson!” Speaking as a human: ”Give me a break!”