Monday, February 14, 2011

A.I. on Jeopardy!

If you enjoyed IBM’s “Deep Blue” chess challenge against Garry Kasparov back in 1997, you may be interested in watching its “Watson” challenge on Jeopardy! this week, Monday through Wednesday.

It’s part of IBM’s overall “Deep QA” artificial intelligence (AI) project, where the goal is to develop machines that can work with language to supplement the repertoire of human services in its global consulting practice. Such computers must be able to “understand” the questions humans ask; to mine data sources that are increasingly words-based (e.g. e-mail, digitized books, the Internet); and to narrow possibilities and arrive at helpful answers.

To that end, a computer named “Watson” (actually a stack of hundreds of computers with thousands of processors) will play the Q&A game Jeopardy against the show’s all-time top two champions -- highest money-winner Ken Jennings and undefeated Brad Rutter. Jeopardy hopes the com-pu-tition (ouch, their word) will be smart and entertaining to viewers; IBM hopes it will be smart and impressive to businesses.

Tune in to Jeopardy this week -- and learn more about the challenge on a PBS Nova program. I've been following the project a bit and, if anything, it has me ever more gobsmacked about the human brain.

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