Writing for Business

Feb 15 2011   5:58PM GMT

Watson on Jeopardy! is a historic event — or is it historical?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
I’m watching Watson, an IBM supercomputer, face off against top-ranked human players on Jeopardy! This is a ________ event.
a. historic
b. historical

Answer: a.

A historical event is just something that happened in the past. A historic event is something significant that either happened in the past or that is current but has significance for the future.

Why is the competition between Watson and two top-ranked Jeopardy! players significant? It’s an amazing breakthrough for artificial intelligence.

Although Jeopardy! is essentially a trivia game, the skills required to compete are anything but trivial. To succeed, a contestant needs an unusual breadth of knowledge, a superior knowledge of the English language (and sometimes other ones), facility with puns and other word play — and the ability to synthesize all these, retrieve the answers and hit the buzzer before your opponents get to theirs.

Watson is optimized as a “question answering” system, combining natural language processing and machine learning with deep analytics and the lightning-fast reflexes more typical of your average supercomputer.

In the future, the abilities of Watson and other supercomputers like him could enable much more intelligent search engines and decision support systems. As an IBM rep commented, when applied to Health IT, Watson’s abilities could be — quite literally — life-saving. A historic event, indeed.

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  • Guoxing
    How to choose your pallet racking? When you choose to use industrial racking you have to know exactly what you looking for. There are a few questions you need to answer. How many items do you have for storage or how many items will you potentially store? What type of things will you be storing? How much money are you willing to spend on industrial racking?
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