Can Big Blue's technology put an end to human dominance of the long-running quiz show? One betting house suggests it's likely.
An upcoming episode of the popular quiz show "Jeopardy," pitting
an IBM computer called Watson against two
past contestants, is causing many people to question whether or not a computer
can outsmart the human brain when competing in categories known for employing
puns and wordplay. Watson, named after IBM
founder Thomas J. Watson, was built by a team of IBM
scientists who set out to accomplish a "grand challenge"-build a
computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in
natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.
With the famous showdown between man and machine looming, bookmaker
Bodog.com said it was "sad to report" that IBM's
Watson is the odds-on favorite to beat both Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and
Brad Rutter. IBM's supercomputer will compete
in an edition of the popular U.S.
quiz show next month for a prize of $1 million. The show will be screened over
three days from Feb. 14-16.
The odds of Jennings, who once
won 74 Jeopardy games in a row, of winning are 5-2. Rutter, who scored the most
money with winnings of more than $3 million, also has a 5-2 chance. "Jeopardy
is seen as the ultimate challenge in the artificial intelligence world because
the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meanings, irony, riddles and other
complexities where humans excel and machines do not," the company's report
Dr. David Ferrucci, a research staff member and leader of the Semantic
Analysis and Integration Department at IBM's
T.J. Watson's Research Center,
is the lead on the Watson project. Dubbed DeepQA, the project focuses on
advancing natural language question answering using massively parallel
evidence-based computing. "The opportunity to pursue an exploratory
project that took an area of science that I was most interested in, and to bring
together a team of world-class people, and push the limits-it doesn't get any
better than that," he said.
The Watson computer system designed by Ferrucci's team represents the
integration and advancement of many search, natural language processing and
semantic technologies, his IBM biography
noted. Following the Jeopardy challenge, Ferrucci said he and his team plan to
apply DeepQA technologies to areas such as medicine, government and law to
drive advances in computer-supported intelligence and decision-making.
While Watson is gearing up to dominate the game show field, IBM
is also predicting the small to medium-size business (SMB) market is gearing up
to spend more on their IT budgets this year. Although that news might not be as
exciting as the thought that we're slowly, but surely, entering a scenario out
of The Terminator, it suggests small business owners are expressing an
increased degree of confidence about the U.S.
The company reported more than half of the 2,000 midsize companies (in 20
countries) it polled are planning to increase their IT budgets during the next
12 to 18 months. Specifically, 53 percent of responding IT managers expect
their budgets to increase over the next 12 to 18 months. The reports indicated
these companies are planning new investments in a number of hardware, software
and service areas, such as business analytics, cloud computing, collaboration,
mobility and customer-relationship packages.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.