What are … our new robot overlords?

I had a pretty exciting Wednesday this week – helping IBM make computers smarter than humans. Designers at their Watson research facility in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., are designing a computer to play Jeopardy, and as a former contestant living in the New York metro area, they asked me to come “spar” with the machine. Turns out they were looking for average Jeopardy contestants like myself – those who had won no more than two games (I, sadly, placed second in my only game). Unfortunately I signed something prohibiting me from saying how the computer did, but let’s just say it was competitive. More than competitive.

Apart from the cool factor of having a computer answer trivia in the form of a question, the potential software could help computers understand human language better and solve problems we didn’t think machines could grasp. Just another step on the way to making ourselves obsolete, I guess.

Here’s the NY Times article on the overall project from a few months ago.

Disclosure: IBM paid me a (small) consulting fee for participating in the sparring matches. I’m eager to think and write more about the effort as soon as they tell me I won’t get sued for doing so!


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