Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Elementary, My Dear "Watson"

After watching the three day IBM ad on Jeopardy, I must say I'm highly impressed.  Besides proclaiming that Toronto is a US city and repeating an incorrect answer, Watson was fairly effective at kicking some serious ass. However, I noticed one very interesting trend...Watson was far more apt to win money on questions with longer answers.  Conversely, the shorter clues were generally gobbled up by Ken Jennings.  I think that regardless of the length of the clue, Watson synthesized the information at the same speed (at least the difference was imperceptible) whereas Ken and Brad took longer to read the lengthier clues, thus giving Watson a distinct advantage.

While I am definitely in awe of what Watson was able to accomplish, there was something else that impressed me more.  We were treated to a few shots of Watson's "brain."  It took up a very large room, had countless servers and processors, and three refrigeration units to prevent him from suffering from heat stroke (in a manner of speaking).  Clearly, the research, engineering, and programming that went into this project is a marvel in and of itself.  However, my focus shifted to those contestants capable of emotion upon seeing the images of the IBM master-machine.  These two men were computing identical information at nearly the same (albeit obviously a hair slower) speed as this monstrous mechanical wonder.  Further, they were doing it while using up a LOT less space.  It really put into perspective just how amazing our brains really are.



  1. What a piece of work is a man! how Noble in
    Reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in Action, how like an Angel! in apprehension, how like a God? the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals;

    Laying it on a bit thick, and Hamlet was being sarcastic, but no-one says it quite like the Bard


  2. Funny - I had the same thoughts. The mind is an amazing thing and that is why I study it every day. :)

    Ken did a pretty good job the second day, and was actually able to keep up - almost.

    Watson reminds me of the huge room sized computers from the 1970's. If Moore's Law holds true, imagine what Watson's "grandkids" will look like in 20 years...