Thursday, June 17, 2010

IBM Builds a Computer That Plays "Jeopardy!"

From the New York Times:
For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself.
That's right - the computers have taken Jeopardy and have their sights clearly set on taking over major corporations like Google and Microsoft. Let me be the first to say that I, for one, welcome our new supercomputer overlords.


  1. Nick,

    Funny overlords comment. :) I'd give anything when using Google if it would always just tell me the answer. Sometimes it does, like when I search for "mass of sun".

    But what I really need is something that can answer simple practical questions like: What are the latest bounds on axionic dark matter? What is the latex embeddable citation for that? What is the \chi^2 fit and what is a plot of the likelihood function and or confidence intervals for this constraint?

  2. Joe,

    Actually the other day I (a non-cosmologist) needed to look up the current confidence regions on the amount of matter (dark or otherwise) and dark energy in the universe. Google pointed me to about a dozen papers, which I had to then actually read to get the answer I wanted. It would be so much easier if the computer could just figure out what I wanted and retrieved it for me.

    More seriously, IBM envisions putting these things in emergency rooms where they could be loaded with all of the latest medical information and then answer a doctor's questions on the fly. It's crazy to think about but not that far fetched.

  3. Yes, for all those "medical doctors" I give you this!

  4. Hey, I thought cha cha already did this.

  5. Stan,

    Cha cha uses real people to generate the answer, not nearly self-aware supercomputers. So this is like artificial cha cha that will one day rule the world.

  6. Hmmm, some times the answers come back so fast it seems there must be some automation behind it.Either way, I'm glad I can find out when 'To Kill A MockingBird' was published as I wait for the opening curtain.


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