Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watson On Jeopardy!

My college roommate Kevin Gold is now a professor of video games at Rochester. He has an artificial intelligence researcher's perspective on Watson the Jeopardy machine.
The first night, I was blown away by its answer to the Daily Double. The category was “Literary APB,” and the clue was what seemed an extremely sideways reference to Mr. Hyde: “Wanted for killing Sir Danvers Carew; appearance—pale & dwarfish; seems to have a split personality.” This is the kind of thing that can cause natural language processing (NLP) researchers fits if they’re trying to write code that parses the sentence.

What I didn’t notice the first time I saw the clue, though, was that “Sir Danvers Carew” was a dead giveaway to a machine with huge databases of text associations at its digital fingertips. It would be likely to point to other things in the classic book with extremely high confidence, by virtue of its commonly appearing near them in text. Of course, the machine must still understand that the correct answer is “Hyde” and not the book title or author or place—so its answer was still extremely impressive.

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