Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watson's run on Jeopardy.


I found this game to be rather interesting.  It certainly is a remarkable leap forward for current computer technology to even begin to understand natural language.  Really though, not too much should be made of the final score.  The challenge for Watson was to comprehend language, he had all the answers stored in a ~16TB database.  The challenge for Jennings and Rutter was to answer the questions.

This series tickled me for a couple reasons.  I like computers, I am by no means a professional or overly capable, but I like to tinker with them.  I am doing my Honours project in computational/theoretical chemistry and have taken classes on the subject.  It's a process that got me hooked on Linux.  I have become a ridiculous fan-boy of Ubuntu and the Linux kernel in general.  I enjoy that when computers are used for what computers were built for (that is to say, calculations we humans would rather avoid), they run Linux.  Watson, for the record, ran SUSE during his run.  As a result, I also have a hate on for Mac/Apple.  They preach the stability of their wonderful operating system, which appears to borrow heavily from open-source resources, and give nothing back.

I also enjoy programming.  I went to competitions in high school and took classes, but never got serious about it.  My entrance to a computational lab made me stop and learn the basics of Python, however.  I have used it to write a program to pick a salary-capped fantasy hockey pool team.  I very much enjoy watching the team's progress, it is currently first out of about 45 teams, though it is struggling with one opponent, and may finish second.  This is, however, much better than my non-computerized performance last year, which saw me finish near last.  At the very least, it allows me to appreciate the difficulties in understanding natural language.

I suppose that's about it.  I sure do like computers, and I sure was impressed by Watson.

Edit: The team finished second overall.  I wonder if a different algorithm would serve me better.