Posts Tagged 'IBM'

First Chess then Jeopardy

The IBM-built supercomputer ‘Watson’ defeated champion jeopardists Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at their own game – then again Watson was built specifically for knowledge-crunching button-pressing the game requires.  In a questionably historic victory, Watson has prevailed at scrounging a database/memory for obscure information and “pressing” a button, the latter of which it could do in “as little as 10 milliseconds” reports the New York Times. John Markoff goes on in the Times coverage of the IBM media spectacle to describe potential applications for this technology – such as aiding doctors during surgery. IBM team-leader David Ferrucci does my work for me by describing the underlying origin of such brainy ambitions:

“People ask me if this is HAL,” he said, referring to the computer in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” “HAL’s not the focus; the focus is on the computer on ‘Star Trek,’ where you have this intelligent information seek dialogue, where you can ask follow-up questions and the computer can look at all the evidence and tries to ask follow-up questions. That’s very cool.”

In a companion article Dylan Loeb McClain points out the obvious predecessor to Watson and how Deep Blue’s own victory (chess this time), has been slowly deflated as time and technology plod along. “14 years later” McClain writes, “chess programs running on an average desktop computer can play better than Deep Blue”. Technological dreams may become real, but seldom the way we expect them to.

Postscript: does Jeopardy even count without Trebeck?


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