This week, IBM’s new super computer, “Watson”, dismantled two former champions in a two-round, three-episode mini tournament on the popular quiz show, Jeopardy!.
The computer, which IBM trumpets as a major advancement in machines’ efforts to understand human language, boasts a nearly 3,000-computer-processor “brain,” which can perform various tasks simultaneously, and a program designed to decipher and understand the often very nuanced structure and abstract meanings within spoken and written communication (English in this case).
On the show, Watson received the clues through digital texts and then buzzed in against the two other contestants like any other player would. . . . Well, actually it buzzed in with a mechanical “thumb” instead of flesh and blood finger, but why split hairs?
After two days, the machine had accumulated 50,000 more points than the humans. The match was a rout.
Surrounding (and leading up to) this spectacle, there was a lot of hype by IBM about Watson and the potential for its program to be a major advance in artificial intelligence. Although it should be noted that IBM doesn’t yet give any specifics about what the advance(s) will be. And outsiders are divided into various camps over the specific potential applications of the program. But Watson has garnered a lot of TV air time and Internet space lately.
So what do you think?
Has Watson been over-hyped? Is this wishful thinking by IBM and AI enthusiasts? What application can you imagine for such a program? Are the chess-playing machines and Jeopardy!-playing machines the first wave of artificial intelligence, or are they still too rudimentary to be considered as such? Was the Jeopardy! tournament a fair match, with the best contestant winning? Other thoughts? Opinions?
The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.