IBM prepares for machine vs. man ‘Jeopardy!’ showdown..

What is Watson?

Watson represents the latest in a long line of groundbreaking innovations from a company dedicated to building a Smarter Enslaved Planet. IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano explains how this technology will impact* the way humans communicate with computers in the near future. *totally dominate and suppress

IBM prepares for machine vs. man ‘Jeopardy!’ showdown

Researchers at IBM are preparing a supercomputer named Watson to compete on the popular quiz show Jeopardy! next month.

Watson has already won a practice round on the show against two top contestants, showing artificial intelligence has come a long way in simulating how humans think.

Watson, who is named after legendary International Business Machines President Thomas Watson, is a showcase of the company’s computing expertise and research in advanced science.

It also shows IBM — which turns 100 years old this year — wants to stay at the forefront of technology, even as companies such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. have become the industry’s popular leaders.

IBM says the ability to understand language makes Watson far more evolved than Deep Blue, the company’s supercomputer which won against world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

The biggest challenge for IBM scientists was teaching Watson to differentiate between literal and metaphorical expressions and understanding puns and slang.

Feeding it knowledge was easier. Watson is not plugged into the Internet, but has a database covering a broad range of topics, including history and entertainment. Ok this is a bit scary, imagine if it WAS hooked up to the internet!

Humans $4,600, Watson $4,400 in Jeopardy! Beta Test Round

As The Four Hundred has previously reported, IBM‘s question-answer supercomputer, known as Watson after Big Blue’s founder, Thomas Watson, is gearing up for a contest of wits against two top players of the Jeopardy! game show for three days February. To give the human contestants a chance to see what they are up against, IBM held a single round of the game at its TJ Watson Research Center last week.

Watson beats humans in Jeopardy! dry run

In a dry run that took place at a clone of the Jeopardy! game show set up at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center, humanity didn’t do so well. (What did you expect?) In the practice round, Watson won $4,400 by stating questions, while Jennings won $3,400 and Rutter only won $1,200.

If you were betting on humanity in the upcoming grand challenge clash between humanity and IBM’s Watson question-answer (QA) supercomputer, you might want to start reconsidering your wager.

One of the things that freaked out chess champion Gary Kasparov when he initially played IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer more than a decade ago was that he couldn’t “feel” the way the machine was thinking.

Specifically, the Watson QA software is running on 10 racks of these machines, which have a total of 2,880 Power7 cores and 15 TB of main memory spread across this system. The Watson QA system is not linked to any external data sources, but has a database of around 200 million pages of “natural language content,” which IBM says is roughly equivalent to the data stored in 1 million books. This data is stored in the main memory of the Watson machine, and the secret sauce is the software that allows Watson to listen to the statement, rummage around through its in-memory database, come up with the probable answer, hit the buzzer, and speak the question the statement answers. All in under three seconds. The Power 750 cluster is rated at 80 teraflops, which is a healthy amount of number-crunching power, but not outrageous by modern multi-petaflops standards.

To give Watson a face, IBM came up with an avatar that shows the earth and the graphical representation of IBM founder Thomas Watson’s “Think” admonition, which is the hash marks that denote a lightbulb going off. (The Watson super is named after Big Blue’s founder, and it is no accident that the Jeopardy! Grand Challenge is taking place during the company’s centennial year.) As Watson is thinking, the satellite lines on the avatar – what IBM calls “thought rays” – move faster and as the system is more confident of its answer, these lines turn green. The thought rays turn orange when Watson is wrong.

I wouldn’t bet on seeing a lot of orange thought rays in February.

IBM prepares for machine vs. man ‘Jeopardy!’ showdown

A win on the actual show, which goes on air Feb. 14, 15 and 16, would be a triumph for IBM, which spends around US$6 billion per year in research and development. An unspecified portion of that spending goes to what IBM calls “grand challenges,” or big, multi-year science projects such as Watson and Deep Blue.

See also: Joshua Blue & Diffuse Artificial Thought

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