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Watson has officially defeated the best mankind has to offer at Jeopardy.The game show legend he defeated, Ken Jennings, offers his thoughts in an article at Slate.
Jennings thought he could win:
I expected Watson’s bag of cognitive tricks to be fairly shallow, but I felt an uneasy sense of familiarity as its programmers briefed us before the big match: The computer’s techniques for unravelling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine. That machine zeroes in on key words in a clue, then combs its memory (in Watson’s case, a 15-terabyte data bank of human knowledge) for clusters of associations with those words. It rigorously checks the top hits against all the contextual information it can muster: the category name; the kind of answer being sought; the time, place, and gender hinted at in the clue; and so on. And when it feels “sure” enough, it decides to buzz. This is all an instant, intuitive process for a human Jeopardy! player, but I felt convinced that under the hood my brain was doing more or less the same thing.
Where he couldn’t compete, in the end, was speed. Watch Watson dominate the critical second round >
Of course he understands why Watson’s victory is really a victory for mankind:
I understood then why the engineers wanted to beat me so badly: To them, I wasn’t the good guy, playing for the human race. That was Watson’s role, as a symbol and product of human innovation and ingenuity. So my defeat at the hands of a machine has a happy ending, after all. At least until the whole system becomes sentient and figures out the nuclear launch codes. But I figure that’s years away.
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