So Watson won. So what are we supposed to think?

Now it can be told.  IBM’s Watson won the Jeopardy! challenge.  It’s one for the record books.

I was home Wednesday trying to get better, so instead of writing a long blog post about it, I’ll mention that there is an interesting commentary on the outcome on IBM’s blog, “Building A Smarter Planet”, at this URL:  http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2011/02/watson-on-jeopardy-day-three-what-we-learned-about-how-watson-thinks.html

I liked this remark in the essay:  ” ‘But does Watson really think?’  This is a question that Ferrucci frequently hears from journalists. He’s wary of making bold pronouncements. When I asked him the question on Monday, he answered:  ‘How do you define think? Does a submarine swim?’ ”

Exactly.

Instead of artificial intelligence, I think that it makes more sense to use the phrase Turing did:  “Machine intelligence.”  Machines are different from humans.  They ought to be valued as machines, and inasmuch as we can speak of machines having intelligence, what they have is machine intelligence.

My spouse (who was on the show a long time ago) wonders whether people will have less interest in playing Jeopardy! now that it’s been shown that a computer can beat even the humans who are the very very best at it.   He thinks that chess has become less popular since DeepBlue beat the world’s best chess players.  I don’t know.  I suspect that, at least for those who enjoy watching the game,  there is more to enjoy about Jeopardy! than the things that are important to strategy and earning points, just because it is about topics that people have connections to in their lives: places they’ve been, products they’ve used, movies they’ve seen, and so on.  That’s missing from chess.   Thinking about how different the two games are makes one realize how different the Jeopardy! challenge is from the chess challenge.

I’m looking forward to reading David Ferrucci’s answers to questions people submitted about Watson, which will be posted on February 22nd.  I don’t know if he’ll choose mine, but if he does, I’m really interested in hearing what he has to say.  It was:  ”Deep Blue was built for challenging the world chess champion.  Watson/DeepQA was built for challenging the Jeopardy! champions.  Do you have any ideas about what kind of challenge might be the next logical step for IBM?”

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One Response to So Watson won. So what are we supposed to think?

  1. OMS says:

    I agree that Jeopardy! will retain its popularity on prime time television, for the same reason you mentioned: “because it is about topics that people have connections to in their lives: places they’ve been, products they’ve used, movies they’ve seen, and so on”.

    Jeopardy! is a legacy – it has been around for decades – and many regard watching it as a tradition and look forward to the nightly challenges.

    While most television dumbs us down, it’s nice to know that we can still enjoy watching and actively participating a little from our sofas – even if we can Google the answers faster than the contestants can think and push the button.

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