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Skynet...ummm...Watson to compete on Jeopardy!

The producers of Jeopardy! and IBM are in discussions to allow an IBM supercomputer known as Watson to compete on the show against human competition. According to The New York Times, if Watson is able to beat the human competition the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward.

IBM has had success in the past building super computers that were able to best human competitors. In 1997, IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer was able to defeat chess world champion Garry Kasparov in a match.

The difference between chess where all pieces have a known value and Jeopardy! is that the trivia questions asked in the game show have a wide and greatly varying range of relationships. These relationships are open to interpretation and the interpretations have to be made very quickly.

The IBM researchers who created Watson -- an homage to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson Sr. -- have said that they are not confident yet that their creation could compete well on the show. The New York Times reports that human champions are able to provide correct response 85% of the time to questions asked.

David A. Ferrucci, an AI researcher at IBM said, "The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms. And we’re not there yet.”

The contest is an effort by the IBM engineers to choose "grand challenges" that will help them make significant technical progress in AI. The rules proposed for the contest will force Watson to emulate all human qualities. Questions posed to Watson will be in text format while players will see text and hear the questions spoken by the show's host.

The computer will offer answers to the question via a synthesized voice and will choose its own follow up categories. IBM says that for the show, the computer would not be connected to the internet. How Watson will be presented and what gender the computer will be are under consideration. A screen and a projected avatar are one consideration.

Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman said, "We’ve only begun to talk about it. We all agree that it shouldn’t look like Robby the Robot."

IBM will move a Blue Gene supercomputer to L.A. for the show.

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Really AI?
By Spivonious on 4/27/2009 12:23:37 PM , Rating: 2
Is it really AI if this thing is just looking for an answer in its vast database of knowledge? Or is the point just to prove that it can correctly interpret the Jeopardy question?

RE: Really AI?
By MozeeToby on 4/27/2009 12:36:35 PM , Rating: 2
It's not so much about the knowledge as it is correctly interpreting the questions (or answers in this case).

Remember when they came out with MovieBots for AOL and you could ask them in plain English about movies in your area? Imagine that, but you could ask it literally anything and have it come back with a coherent answer.

RE: Really AI?
By transamdude95 on 4/27/2009 1:43:37 PM , Rating: 5
Or, in this case, a coherent question...

RE: Really AI?
By stirfry213 on 4/27/2009 12:45:20 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the same thing. I think the challenge is for a computer to interperet the question correctly so it even knows what to look for.

My question is, will the programming allow the computer to guess wrong. This could be an advantage for the computer it if can't guess wrong. It could also be a great disadvantage, if the computer isn't up for the challenge and guesses wrong alot.

RE: Really AI?
By chmilz on 4/27/2009 12:48:19 PM , Rating: 5
How well this works could have a massive impact on the "search" business. Often search results come up wrong based on the words used in the search bar. If AI becomes better able to interpret what a person was looking for, it could provide much better results.

Fast forward some years and imagine that capability on your phone with voice recognition.

You: Phone, where's the closest place to buy pr0n?
Phone: Big Cid's Vids is 43 metres due south by southeast. Go south on 43st and turn left, heading due east at 112ave. Your destination should be on the north side of the avenue. Please avoid the hookers, I don't respond well to viruses.

RE: Really AI?
By AntiM on 4/27/2009 12:59:20 PM , Rating: 3
Is it really AI if this thing is just looking for an answer in its vast database of knowledge? Or is the point just to prove that it can correctly interpret the Jeopardy question?

I assume it will be a little of both. They really have their work cut out for them with respect to the AI being able to interpret the questions (answers actually), and then form the answer in the form of a question. I wish them luck, but I predict that their first outing will be a big flop, just as the first chess playing AI was.

It would be more interesting if different super computers from different companies could compete with each other on a special show. It could be a competition between colleges to see which one builds the best AI, or different companies, or different countries.

RE: Really AI?
By mofo3k on 4/27/2009 1:04:01 PM , Rating: 2
Or is the point just to prove that it can correctly interpret the Jeopardy question?

Actually, it has to interpret the answer correctly and respond with the proper question - it is Jeopardy after all.

Sorry, I had point that out. OTOH, wouldn't it be hilarious if the CPU forgot to answer in question form everytime. Would it be able to adapt on the fly?

RE: Really AI?
By jazzboy69 on 4/27/2009 2:12:53 PM , Rating: 2
It won't adapt to the rules on the fly. That's why it's artificial intelligence. The designers are the ones with the intelligence, and if they don't know the rules to Jeopardy then the thing won't work. In reality no computer on its own has beat a human at anything. Teams of humans have put together machines that have been able to beat a single human at tasks such as chess, but without the team a supercomputer is just an expensive way to heat a building. If the team hasn't seen Saturday Night Live the first answer might be 42.

RE: Really AI?
By inighthawki on 4/28/2009 3:00:48 AM , Rating: 2
well duh, of course it had to be programmed, but artificial intelligence that doesn't mean it cannot be programmed to learn and adjust rules based on external input. There was just recently a robot that could take in data and make correct hypothesis with it, meaning it came to a conclusion on its own.

The human brain is no different. At birth we are essentially programmed to understand and interprete external input/data to make a conclusion. this is nothing more, it just needs a head start on how to do things

RE: Really AI?
By Suntan on 4/27/2009 1:51:52 PM , Rating: 4
Is it really AI if this thing is just looking for an answer in its vast database of knowledge?

Isn’t that all the human players are doing?

Isn’t one of the goals of AI to mimic human activities? Its not like the human players are being asked to think out problems using logical reasoning, they’re just being asked to answer questions from memory too.


RE: Really AI?
By foolsgambit11 on 4/27/2009 9:46:25 PM , Rating: 3
Not exactly. Certain answers may be simple trivia ("This is the largest country in South America" - "What is Brazil?" - even this is hard to program - speech recognition, largest in what sense, what countries are part of the set of countries if South America, determining the word 'country' means 'nation-state', not 'rural area', etc.). But some categories have multiple decision criteria, linguistic puns, anagrams, etc. It's an incredible challenge, such that I'd recognize the program as possessing some rudimentary intelligence. Take for instance a category from this season, "Anagrams of Compass Directions", where the question is an anagram of a compass point, like, "To think over an issue long and hard" - "What is stew". The AI has to understand the question (answer), which has multiple answers (questions) that could fit. It has to figure out that it must look for a word or words whose definition is Trebek's answer, despite the fact that the definition it has for words will certainly not be worded the same way. Once it has a list of possible answers, it must form anagrams of all of them and compare the results with a list of all compass directions. All in 5 seconds from ringing in. It could perhaps work this problem in the opposite order, or from both sides, but it is certain that the programmers can't program a solution method for all kinds of Jeopardy categories, so the computer will have to come up with a method of arriving at a solution to complex problems on its own. It would be a huge accomplishment if the computer could even do poorly at Jeopardy.

Plus, the computer would have to have overall strategic planning, which would involve understanding of its own categoric strengths and weaknesses.

RE: Really AI?
By shin0bi272 on 4/28/2009 12:03:33 AM , Rating: 1
youre right but in your anagram example the computer would pull up all possible anagrams for all of the compass directions (assuming you are only talking about the cardinal directions) and their definitions and match a definition to the answer in miliseconds. Which wouldnt really be artificial intelligence it would be a well written program.
Artificial intelligence is where you walk up to a computer and ask it how it feels today and it makes a decision based on criteria that it came up with in its own order of importance. Like if it just said "im fine dave" every day you wouldnt think of it as "alive". But if you get a different response every day or it comes back with I feel sick I think I have a virus youd feel like it had a stronger awareness of its internal workings and its external stimuli.

Not knocking your post just pointing out that its not really intelligence if all its doing is systematically matching up definitions of words to possible answers and then phrasing the return in a form of a question. Granted that is how we think more or less but it doesnt mean its artificial intelligence when a pc does it.

If you want to see real ai look up "cog" its a robot that is breaking new ground in AI.

RE: Really AI?
By foolsgambit11 on 4/28/2009 4:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
You're right that it wouldn't be AI if it were programmed to solve the problem (I did mention that it could be solved either way), but the computer, assuming it had been in that game, wouldn't have been programmed to solve that specific problem class, since it hadn't been used. The point was that the computer would have to go about deciding how best to find a solution to the problem, which means in this case that it has to understand what form the answer will take (anagram), properly parse the clue, and understand synonymous definitions/phrases. It is by no means a trivial problem. Even if the computer were programmed to answer problems like this, it would have to recognize that that solution technique was called for in this category.

The problem isn't so simple as a series of string comparisons, because the computer is unlikely to have the definition of words phrased exactly the same as it is phrased in the clue.

It may be possible to program a computer to perform well on Jeopardy without any amount of intelligence (like it turned out to be possible for chess), but the amount of data the computer would have to store would be astronomical. Just feeding it the data would take years.

RE: Really AI?
By Dfere on 4/27/2009 1:52:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is exactly the question of what is intelligence... The ability to answer a question correctly, or to think independently? And if you examine what the latter means, you usually are making an analysis based on the human condition, so the defining paramaters are critical to what someone typically would call thought.

RE: Really AI?
By borowki2 on 4/27/2009 6:31:53 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, have you guys even seen Jeopardy? The contestants are given the answer and they have to formulate their response as a question.

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton
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