Intelligent or obedient?
Intelligent or obedient?
Jeopardy! is a popular game show that, in various incarnations, has been on television for more than 50 years. The show is a test of general knowledge with the twist that the clues are answers and the contestants respond with questions that fit the answers. For example, the clue, “16th President of the United States,” would be answered correctly with “Who is Abraham Lincoln?” There are three contestants, and the first person to push his or her button is given the first chance to answer the question orally (with the exception of the Final Jeopardy clue, when all three contestants are given 30 seconds to write down their answers). In many ways, the show is ideally suited for computers because computers can store and retrieve vast amounts of information without error. (At a teen Jeopardy tournament, a boy lost the championship because he wrote “Who Is Annie Frank?” instead of “Who is Anne Frank.”A computer would not make such an error.) On the other hand, the clues are not always straightforward, and sometimes obscure. One clue was “Sink it and you’ve scratched.” It is difficult for a computer that is nothing more than an encyclopedia of facts to come up with the correct answer: “What is the cue ball?” Another challenging clue was, “When translated, the full name of this major league baseball team gets you a double redundancy.” (Answer: “What is the Los Angeles Angels?”) In 2005 a team of 15 IBM engineers set out to design a computer that could compete with the best Jeopardy players. They named it Watson, after IBM’s first CEO, Thomas J. Watson, who expanded IBM from 1,300 employees and less than $5 million in revenue in 1914 to 72,500 employees and $900 million in revenue when he died in 1956. The Watson program stored the equivalent of 200 million pages of information and could process the equivalent of a million books per second. Beyond its massive memory and processing speed, Watson can understand natural spoken language and use synthesized speech to communicate. Unlike search engines that provide a list of relevant documents or web sites, Watson was programmed to find specific answers to clues. Watson used hundreds of software programs to identify the keywords and phrases in a clue, match these to keywords and phrases in its massive data base, and then formulate possible responses.
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