Jeopardy! will take two of its most popular former contestants — Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter to compete against Watson, a computer program developed by IBM’s artificial intelligence team.
UPDATE: Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Wolfram and others discuss the importance and the context of what Watson on Jeopardy means for AI and society
0. The Atlantic has a liveblog of the Jeopardy match
7:10: Oh, Watson’s got the Daily Double! He’s wagering $1,000…and he’s got it right. Ken gets a question correct about the 50s.
7:20: Watson doesn’t appear to be getting any of these decades questions correct…Man is really coming back here in the second half. Watson really does like the Beatles though. He’s tied for the lead with…Brad? What’s happening Ken? Brad wants to be an actor for heaven’s sake.
7:25: What have we learned tonight Trebek? “Watson is very bright, very fast, but he has some weird little moments…” Tomorrow is double Jeopardy and Wednesday is the final.
Earlier in 2010, on one day of test matches against humans Watson won four of six games. Jeopardy Champions hit the buzzer first about 50% of the time and get 85-95% of the answers correct. Ken Jennings during his winning streak had 2,693 correct responses (including Final Jeopardy) and 263 incorrect responses. IBMs true target is to create search engines better than Google and answer engines better than WolframAlpha.
Many of the statistical techniques Watson employs were already well known by computer scientists. One important thing that makes Watson so different is its enormous speed and memory. Taking advantage of I.B.M.’s supercomputing heft, Ferrucci’s team input millions of documents into Watson to build up its knowledge base — including, he says, “books, reference material, any sort of dictionary, thesauri, folksonomies, taxonomies, encyclopedias, any kind of reference material you can imagine getting your hands on or licensing. Novels, bibles, plays.”
No single algorithm can simulate the human ability to parse language and facts. Instead, Watson uses more than a hundred algorithms at the same time to analyze a question in different ways, generating hundreds of possible solutions. Another set of algorithms ranks these answers according to plausibility; for example, if dozens of algorithms working in different directions all arrive at the same answer, it’s more likely to be the right one. In essence, Watson thinks in probabilities.
Competing against Watson will be two of the most celebrated players ever to appear on Jeopardy! Ken Jennings broke the Jeopardy! record for the most consecutive games played by winning 74 games in a row during the 2004-2005 season, resulting in winnings of more than $2.5 million. Brad Rutter won the highest cumulative amount ever by a single Jeopardy! player, earning $3,255,102. The total amount is a combination of Rutter’s original appearance in 2002, plus three Tournament wins: the “Tournament of Champions” and the “Million Dollar Masters Tournament” in 2002 and the “Ultimate Tournament of Champions” in 2005
Jennings and Rutter will play two games against Watson with a $1 million prize at stake. (IBM says they’ll donate the prize money to charity, and Jennings and Rutter plan to give away half of the winnings.) The matches will air Feb. 14-16.
The grand prize for this competition will be $1 million with second place earning $300,000 and third place $200,000. Rutter and Jennings will donate 50 percent of their winnings to charity and IBM will donate 100 percent of its winnings to charity.
“After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the Jeopardy! clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team that has created Watson. “Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson’s breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives.”
This fall, Watson played more than 50 “sparring games” against former Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions contestants in final preparation for its television debut. In addition, Watson has taken and passed the same Jeopardy! contestant test that humans take to qualify to play on the show, giving Jeopardy! producers confidence that the match will be both entertaining and competitive.
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