IBM's Watson Computer Beats the Superstars of Jeopardy! But What Does it Mean?
IBM's Watson computer, though a marvel of computing power, cannot answer questions that involve the common sense of a child.
A milestone of sorts was passed this week when IBM's Watson supercomputer bested the two human superstars of the Jeapardy! TV program, answering questions that would stump an ordinary person. Tensions were high during this contest, since the stakes are potentially very great. This contest harkens back to the famous test mentioned by the AI pioneer, Alan Turing, who said that, sooner or later, a machine will be so advanced that its answers to questions will be indistinguishable from a human's answers.
To be fair, no machine can pass a Turing test in all situations. It is still relatively easy for a human to detect which answer came from a human and which came from a machine. But the victory of IBM's Watson computer shows that, one by one, the machines are chipping away at the supremacy of human beings.
What this contest showed was that, in a very specialized area, machines can do better than humans. This involves answering questions that are posed in a highly stylized way, suitable for the Jeopardy! TV program. This does not involve answering questions that are posed, off-the-cuff, by an ordinary person using colloquial, conversational English.
This narrow achievement has vast commercial implications. For example, in the future we might talk to a "robo-doc" in our wall screens, which looks just like a human, but is actually a software program. We would ask this "doctor" on our wall screen medical questions (in a special format) and it would answer, say, perhaps 95% of the common questions that humans ask a doctor. Similarly, "robo-lawyer" would answer most of the basic questions concerning the law. These software programs could vastly increase the efficiency of society and reduce health-care costs.
But there are important limitations. The key limitation facing AI is mastering something we take for granted, which is common sense. We know, for example, that:
There is no line of mathematical logic or computer code that explains these statements. These are simple facts about our world that we learn the hard way, through experience. Unfortunately, there are probably hundreds of millions of lines of common sense necessary to simulate the common sense of, say, a five-year old child.
IBM's Watson computer, although it is a marvel of computer power, is inadequate to answer questions that involve the common sense of a child.
But what about the far future, when robots finally attain the common sense ability of a human? For more on this question, please consult my new book, Physics of the Future, out in March.
To create wiser adults, add empathy to the school curriculum.
- Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
- Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
- Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?
Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways.
Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.
I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.
A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.
- A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
- The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
- The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Mathematicians studied 100 billion tweets to help computer algorithms better understand our colloquial digital communication.