For all of you geeks that have had your head in the sand, artificial intelligence has hit a milestone. Yesterday, IBM’s Watson trounced these bags of meat known as Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in Jeopardy. If I ruined the result of the match, I apologize, but I figure posting a day after is enough notice for anyone that was following this from the start. For some more background on Watson and behind the scenes info, check out my original post on this. I have to admit that I was rooting for Watson from the start. I was a bit worried when after the first day in the tournament Watson was only tied for first place. I’m not sure what happened between the first and second matches, but Watson rocketed ahead in the second day and never looked back.
I think IBM might have been in a rush to show off their new creation. It was interesting to see the answer confidence levels during the rounds, often revealing some really wacky possible answers. Watson crashed several times during the second day of filming, nothing a regular viewer would notice while watching the recorded match on TV. One criticism I’ve heard about the match was that Watson was fed the questions electronically rather than relying on voice and character recognition. I have to agree that the electronic delivery could have been an advantage. Had voice recognition and OCR functionality been used in Watson, the victory would be quite a bit more impressive. I could clearly see the two mere mortals struggling to buzz in and shake in frustration when Watson was faster. The producers touted the physical buzzer plunger that Watson had to activate, but I still think that Watson had the advantage.
I would be interested to see a rematch in a year but with only inputs into Watson be voice and video of the Jeopardy board. After all, Deep Blue was given a second chance versus Garry Kasparov, so why not give the humans a second chance on more equal footing? It is quite possible that programming algorithms over the year would improve enough so that Watson still would win, despite the reliance of voice recognition and OCR. In that case, the victory would mean that much more. Even if you know the outcome already, I still recommend watching the matches. I already saw the Nova special, so I skipped through most of the background stuff from the IBM folks. Here is a link to my YouTube playlist that has the three episodes broken into 6 videos. Check it out! Then you can tell your grandchildren how you watched a computer beat humans in Jeopardy for the first time. Then they’ll ask, “Humans were allowed to play Jeopardy back then?”
Tonight with my wife, I watched an interesting episode of Nova titled “The World’s Smartest Machine.” Romantic, right? You can tell we are a couple of geeks at heart. Being a huge fan of Asimov and his robot creations, I am continually amazed at the progress of robotics and artificial intelligence. As a kid I was playing chess as early as the 3rd grade. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty good chess player. When I heard about a computer that supposedly could beat a world champion chess player, I was intrigued. Garry Kasparov battled IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer in 1996 and won, however he eventually lost a rematch in 1997. Well, IBM is back at it, this time taking on Jeopardy. Nova takes us behind the scenes with the developers of “Watson,” the next step in AI. I was disappointed when the episode ended and it didn’t say who won. I didn’t realize until logging on PBS.org that the contest actually was taking place while I was watching Nova (on my media center PC). After some frantic Google searches, I eventually came across a Twitter feed with a link to a Youtube posting of the episode. This was not quite 2 hours after the episode aired! Isn’t technology great? I expect the Youtube post to be served a DMCA take down, so watch it soon if you plan on it. In addition to the episode at the end of this post, I’ve embedded the Nova preview and an humorous parody of the challenges Watson overcame during his development. I suggest watching the Nova episode first. If you are at all interested in AI, you must check these out!
There are two more nights to the match, airing Tuesday February 15th, and Wednesday the 16th. Be sure to check them out, along with some live blogging on PBS.org. I find myself rooting for Watson, not because I want to see humans defeated, but because I want to see humans capable of making something smart enough to do it. Who do you think will win? Who do you want to win?
A long time ago (2007) in a city far, far away (Carbondale), I posted about Sith Vixen and her Femtrooper costume. A photographer has topped this by gathering up a group of Star Wars geeks and putting together an amazing photo shoot. There is a femtrooper in this one, however she’s called “Femme Storm Trooper”. I personally think femtrooper is better name. Characters also included are Lady Vader, Darth Vader, Slave Leia, Oola the Twi’lek, Boba Fett, and Padme. The Slave Leia and Femtrooper scene is a particularly interesting. I’m not really much of a tattoo fan, but Padme has a pretty awesome Death Star and R2D2 on her right shoulder. This is only part 1 of the photo shoot, so be sure to bookmark the blog and keep an eye out for more!