back to article Watson beats humans in Jeopardy! dry run

If you were betting on humanity in the upcoming grand challenge clash between humanity and IBM's Watson question-answer (QA) supercomputer, you might want to start reconsidering your wager. As El Reg previously reported, IBM's Watson QA box took the same Jeopardy! entrance exam a month ago and qualified to take on past …


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  1. Steven Hunter

    How is it given the answers?

    The only thing I want to know is if it is doing voice recognition/OCR or are the answers fed in as text data?

    1. Peter H. Coffin

      Re: How is it given the answers?

      The article does specifically mention "listen to the statement", so that kind of implies Voice Recog.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Stephen Hunter

      Great question. No, Watson doesn't have to perform SR here, it gets the text of the message. When? I think at the start of the reading, which gives a substantial advantage to the machine. That's an important distinction and a fair criticism of the process. I expect we will see SR in later matches to make it fairer for fleshies.


      Trivial persuits...

      Interaction with the humans in the game is much more interesting here than being a fountain of trivia. The trivia part is actually pretty... trivial. This is not a game of skill or intelligence.

  2. Steven Knox


    This is just an extension of their chess-player with natural language parsing added on. There's no actual intelligence* involved, and if you limited its resources to those available to its fleshy competitors, it would fail miserably.

    AI won't be created by chucking massive databases into enormous supercomputers. It will be created by an elegant system that chooses how to process inputs on its own. Let me know when someone's got that sorted.

    *on the part of the computer. Its developers appear quite intelligent indeed.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Physics envy?

      That "elegant" system may not exist. As far as we know, anything able to navigate in the real world is a horrible kludge with bolt-ons left and right and something called the "limbic system" acting up regularly. Bletcherous!

      I fear the real world is too complex and real-time for elegance in processing if all what you have got is polynomial time and constant space processing. Deal with it.

  3. Michael C
    Thumb Up

    long time to go

    If it takes 8 racks of servers to handle the queries of a single person, at 1-4 seconds per request, we're going to need a lot more nuclear power plants, and a rack farm the size of Long Island, NY to replace Google Search with a Watson system...

    1. Marvin the Martian

      My thoughts exactly.

      When it becomes more cost effective to have this thingy around than an actual specialist, that may be a bit off... They seem to have a similar shelflife, say 15years, I'd hazard.

      Well, supposedly you could have a lot of "interpreters" around who each feed their questions to one centrally located QA machine --- however, it then purely depends on the quality of the interpreters, on them accurately understanding the situation and correctly gauging the importance of each factor present.. almost like a specialist would do. Hm...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Go Watson !!

    Watson managed to nail every single answer (rather question), just that it was low on confidence answering them -

    I for one welcome our new trivia overlord.

    1. John Riddoch
      Thumb Up

      Love it...

      "Let's finish Chicks Dig Me."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these

  6. VeganVegan

    The only answer / question is


  7. TheOtherHobbbes

    There are rumours

    that Microsoft is working on a competitor called "Steve" that makes no sense *at all* and throws chairs around the room.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge



  8. Darryl


    I'm already getting prepared for Alex Trebec's inevitable "Elementary, my dear Watson" joke.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Presumably just for the publicity

    All very clever but its not really true AI as the conversation is limited so doesn't it fail one of the ?turing? tests as soon as you step away from whats expected...

    1. Mike Kamermans

      The turing test is not actually an intelligence test

      The Turing test is only a test on whether or not a computer is able to carry a conversation that, to a human, is indistinguisable from a human conversation. It's not a measure for being a proper AI at all. This is most certainly an example of an excellent implementation of a specific type of A.I. (namely an AI algorithm that reduces an enormous search space to singleton solutions). It's just hard to see - right now - how portable it is for other applications

      (yes, I have a degree in A.I.)

      1. Charles Manning

        The Turing Test is just reductio ad absurdum

        Remember that Turing was a mathematician and loved the idea of using mental "tricks" to answer hard questions - something he did by using the Turing machine to prove the Entscheidungsproblem.

        When you are faced with the question "can a computer be intelligent" it is very hard to answer directly without answering sub-problems like "what is intelligence".

        Turing used reductio ad absurdum to turn that on its head: If a computer cannot be told apart from an intelligent person then it would have to be considered intelligent.

        That sets some upper bound to what one might consider a test of intelligence. It does not make the Turing Test the one and only test of intelligence.

        Answering some general knowledge questions faster than people is not necessarily intelligence. There are many highly intelligent people that would not know the answers. Rather, intelligence involves original problem solving. When dropped on an island could this computer figure out how to make a shelter from banana leaves?

        Mimicking human intelligence is far too much of a goal. AI can't even replicate the survival instincts of a fly.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: the Turing test

        You may choose to define intelligence so that the Turing test doesn't measure it, but it measures what *I* mean by intelligence. (The sad thing is just how many human beings would fail.) In fact, it's probably the only test of intelligence that we know of.

        Had the machine built its own database (and written its own rules) by listening to the unstructured raw input that we call "real life", I'd be impressed. As it is, this system appears to have had a "small" set of rules pre-programmed in and then merely demonstrated how far you can go with just a small set of rules. That is usually surprising to a lay audience, but to anyone with a background in the physical sciences, it isn't telling us anything we didn't already know.

      3. stewski

        AI degree?

        You have a degree in AI great, what is proper AI or even just I?


        For my money Turing's test(s) at least acknowledges the fact that we know very little about cognition so would do better to accept that (at least short term) and judge appearance of intelligence. If current AI thinking has something better, I'd be very interested though..

  10. hahnchen
    Thumb Up

    I see...

    ...that Wikipedia has gained sentience on its 10th anniversary.

  11. J Phelps

    How Watson gets the answers

    There is no voice recognition, etc. The answer is sent to Watson via text msg over tcp/ip. Watson has to buzz in though with a mechanical thumb.

  12. Craig 2


    So they've built a supercomputer that finds the question to already-known answers? Why don't they feed in 42 and see what comes out?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The system would provide the question :

      "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?"

      because the knowledge of the machine is tainted already

      1. AlgernonFlowers4


        "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?"

        42 base 13

  13. CADmonkey

    Something familiar about that logo.....

    God help humanity if I'm right!

  14. Graham Bartlett

    Set up to cheat

    So the machine gets the entire answer at the start, as a whole blob of text? And the humans get the answer as successive words at the speech rate of a human quizmaster? And the fastest to buzz in with the answer wins?

    Anyone else think this gives an unfair thinking time advantage to the computer? You want a fair comparison, post the question on a screen too, and make sure the contestants are all speed-readers.

    Not that it's not impressive a computer can do this. But still, if you're going to play a game then at least you need to have everyone going on the same rules.

  15. Mike Bell

    When the rocks stop banging

    These conversations are going to look rather quaint in a hundred years' time, when A.I.s are built from trillions of self-assembling nanoscale quantum processors, or maybe something even more spooky and wonderful.

    @Charles Manning: the goal of mimicking human intelligence will, in the context of history, seem like rather a short blip. As of 2011, we're still banging rocks together, really.

  16. jai

    theme song?

    can we have the Wierd Al song playing as the soundtrack?

  17. TRT Silver badge

    Tim Brooke-Taylor

    I'm reminded of that scene in Willy Wonka where Tim Brooke-Taylor's computer asks what would a computer do with a life time's supply of chocolate?

  18. John 62

    Blue computers can't jump

    Can it beat Gloria?

    IIRC Kasparov also complained that it felt as though he was playing against 1000s of humans, rather than a single entity and that Deep Blue got tuned by the dev team between matches.

  19. Glenn Charles


    I'm turning green with envy. Is that wrong?


    My apologies.

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