Friday, February 4, 2011

Man versus Machine – Can IBM’s Watson Win?

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY - JANUARY 13:  (L-R) Exec...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeIn just a few days, IBM’s super-computer, named Watson after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, will play Jeopardy against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. The three-day match will take place on February 14th through the 16th. And the world will be watching.

Certainly these men – the two most successful Jeopardy champions ever – should win, right? After all, they have something Watson doesn’t – a brain.

Not so fast! I’m calling the odds in Watson’s favor, and here’s why:

1. Brainpower. Yes, Rutter and Jennings have brains, but they each have only one. Watson, on the other hand, has had the benefit of the enormous brainpower of IBM’s research lab – an organization that pumps out record numbers of patents every year. Watson has the collective brains of many brilliant men and women who designed, developed, and tested “him”, making him the best he could be.

2. Watson doesn’t need to remember and recall. Rutter and Jennings, being human after all, just might find themselves in a position where they say, “I know that, I know that…” and still come up short on the answer. Watson simply needs to access the data and analyze it.

3. And speaking of data, Watson has access to data. Lots and lots of data. Surely the right answer is out there somewhere. If anything, Watson’s challenge will be to filter the data to zero in on what he needs.

4. Watson won’t let emotions get in his way. If he makes a mistake, he’s not going to be wondering if Ken Jennings thinks he’s an idiot. If he overbids on a daily double, he won’t let the loss slow down his trigger finger. He can just stand tall and move on.

5. Watson has nothing else to do. That’s right. Watson won’t be thinking about what to do with his winnings. He won’t be worrying about dinner later, or whether the kids did their homework. And even though he won’t be worried about whether his tie is on straight for the camera, I expect all eyes will be indeed be on him.

I’ll be watching and cheering for Watson. What about you?

13 comments:

Liz Fichera said...

Oh, this is cool! As long as there's some place for his power chord, I think I may have to bet on Watson too. Very 2000 Space Odyssey!

Carol Kilgore said...

My money's on Watson.

Colette said...

Don't forget to set your DVR so you don't miss it!

mtk said...

no disrespect for the human jeopardy champions, but when IBm marketing pays for an IBM research project (e.g. watson, deep thought) the research project always comes through :-).

Colette said...

mtk -- I agree -- if not in this round, Watson surely won't give up until he wins!

stan said...

Watson does have access to lots of data, but not infinite data. It is not connected to the internet or anything external. Also, Watson has the challenge of interpreting language, which is simple for humans. For example: "Coke introduced this drink in 1963." Is "indroduced" the same as "began manufacturing?" It is in this case. But when I say "I introduced my uncle" it doesn't mean I began manufacturing my uncle. So Watson is fast and has lots of data, but human language is complicated.

By the way, the answer is "Tab."

Colette said...

stan - yes, language, that will make this interesting! We don't want it to be too easy!

Steveinpok said...

Check it out on YouTube....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1c7s7-3fXI

Andree Santini said...

I'm voting for Watson too!

Colette said...

Steveinpok - thanks for sharing the video!

Stephen Tremp said...

This will be fun to watch. Man vs. Machine! I love it. I'll take machine. If it loses, I wonder if it will destroy everyone in the audience, then run amok in the streets.

Stephen Parrish said...

Watson has nothing else to do.

That cracked me up.

Colette said...

Stephen P - glad I could make you laugh. Of course, the IBMers who created Watson would say it differently -- they would say Watson has been optimized for a single task.