Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Man against machine. Literally. The last time I heard that phrase was when the chess player Garry Kasparov played a game against an IBM computer many years ago in 1977 and won the match. It was highly publicized. Well, the challenge is on again in a way. This time it is a couple of guys who won on the long time running game show “Jeopardy.” They will play against a IBM computer as well.
I always feel sorry for the poor geeks that play “Jeopardy” each night. These people represent some of the brightest humans our country has to offer. Each night, after answering correctly well thought out answers in a moments notice to rare and obscure questions on usually ancient information or highly technical subjects they earn little money. After a long session of quick fire thinking, they are lucky to have earned a few thousand dollars. Please “ Jeopardy“, get with it. Most game show contestants are happy to lose what you offer as a prize. On “Deal or No Deal “you don’t even have to answer any questions; just decide how greedy you want to be. On “Minute to Win It” you balance a egg on a spoon and start at $25,000.
Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter are two of the most successful contestants on the game show “Jeopardy.” They will soon play two games against “Watson,” a computer program developed by IBM’s artificial intelligence team. The matches will be spread over three days that will air on television February 14-16. I dare you take your Valentine on the 14th nowhere and sit in front of the television to see this. Well, if they are interesting and intellectual your valentine might get into it.
Why? The point of this experiment is a competition that will show how successful scientists are in creating a computer that can mimic human intelligence. Yes, lets participate and help our humanoid doom. Help the computers to realize our every essence and take over us and end slave us. Ok, Sorry, I’m getting too paranoid in a science fiction way. However, this game unlike chess often requires contestants to deal with subtleties, puns and riddles and to answer quickly and correctly.
IBM’s “Watson” is named in honor of IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. Its on-screen appearance will be represented by a round avatar. Its computing system is made up of electronically generated graphic compositions in which computer algorithms define the shape, texture and motion. The computer had already been tested in some 50 games against past “Jeopardy” champions. No one is willing to disclose the outcomes of those games.
The winner receives a $1 million prize. IBM said it would donate its winnings to charity, while Jennings and Rutter said they would give half of their prize money away; after all, they need something to live on. Jennings had the game’s show longest winning streak, taking 74 games in a row during the 2004-5 season. Rutter won the most money of any “Jeopardy” player so far with about $3million total from his original appearance added to 3 subsequent tournaments.
IBM hopes this playful experiment will have some practical uses in eventually helping doctors diagnose illnesses or solving problems at technical support centers. Watch out outsourced information guys. Your job may be taken by a computer named Watson. It may take the job of some guy with a heavy Indian accent who calls himself Scott instead of Singh.

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