Can a computer beat the best Jeopardy players?

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!

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Jeopardy Robot Watson’s Untold Game Show History (VIDEO)

Jeopardy Feb. 14 2011 – Human vs Machine IBM Challenge Day 1 Part 1/2

Jeopardy Feb. 14 2011 – Human vs Machine IBM Challenge Day 1 Part 2/2

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?

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Battlestar Galactica Razor (2007)Battlestar Galactica Razor (2007)

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It had been a few months since I watched Battlestar Galactica: Razor, so I figured I would watch it once more before finally reviewing it. I of course watched the Unrated Extended version. I wonder why they even bother releasing the regular cuts. Does anyone buy them? Anyway, I’m just a bit behind because I wanted to review it prior to the season 4 premier. There are four separate storylines told with lots of flashbacks involved.

From the Battlestar Wiki:

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Mazes and Monsters is a far-out gameMazes and Monsters is a far-out game

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A couple days ago I was able to visit with some friends I haven’t seen in a few years. After one of them cracked open a bottle of wine, we eventually ended up talking about gaming. One thing led to another and one of my friends asked, “Have any of you heard of Mazes and Monsters?” In mere moments we were watching one of the most horrible acting performances I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t sure if I should be shocked or amazed. In retrospect, the alcohol definitely enhanced the experience. We ended up adding our own commentary, MST3K style. About half way through I regretted that we didn’t start recording our comments to dub in later on. My friend actually had the recording equipment to do it too.

The movie starts out with a scene with a bunch of police cars and fire trucks responding to a missing persons report. A university student got lost in some caverns in a game of Mazes and Monsters that got out of hand. I was battling with trying to figure out if this was supposed to be some type of spoof or just an anti Dungeons and Dragons flick. After watching it all, despite how close it comes to seeming like parody, I think they were actually serious. In the midst of all the no-name actors this guy by the name of Tom Hanks shows up in one of his first roles. I’m sure if you ask him about it today, he’ll try to deny any involvement with this feature.

I’m pretty sure that anyone that has played classic DnD would be amused by this movie. Just watch it with a few friends over a few drinks, and I am sure everyone will have a blast. Here is a clip, it doesn’t contain any real spoilers.

Surrogates (2009) Directed by Jonathan MostowSurrogates (2009) Directed by Jonathan Mostow

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I wasn’t really expecting much when I heard about Surrogates, so waited to watch it until it came out on DVD. From the previews it looked like many other science fiction action films that seem to be pumped out by Hollywood. The main premise of the movie is that humans live their lives through “surrogate” (robot) bodies. I’m a huge fan of Asimov and his robot novels, so this was enough to catch my attention. The human interface is kind of like how control worked in Avatar, but instead of an organic body as the host, it is robotic. I would definitely not classify the surrogates as the cyborgs that Ray Kurzweil thinks we will eventually become.  One of the main advantages to using a surrogate is that the owner is always protected, so in some ways they are better than cyborgs. There was no way for any harm to come to a user, until now.

Tom Greer, played by Bruce Willis, is in charge of investigating the destruction of a couple of surrogates. This is usually not that big of a deal, but one of the owners is found dead. Whoever wrote the script really wasn’t trying anything new as far as the murder/mystery approach is concerned. I was expecting a lot more action based on the previews that I saw. It felt like I was watching for 40 minutes before things started to get moving. This move was all around average in most respects. Nothing really stood out. It wasn’t bad, but not great.

One completely unrelated observation is that I found Bruce Willis’ upper lip (stash zone) alarmingly long. It looked almost twice the size I’d normally expect. I think of most of the roles I’ve seen him in, he’s got a beard of some sort, so that kind of hides that feature of his face. Am I alone here? Check out the pic on IMDB