As I predicted, IBM’s Watson super computer configuration won a game of Jeopardy from some very smart humans on US national television. A bit humiliating for us, the human race, but on the other hand, we did design the thinking machine… so our pride should not take too big a hit.
Fascinating on Watson winning this brainy contest about hands down, is the machines striking ability to deal with complicated linguistic clues: Watson can process natural language with surprising ease, and is even able to filter and crawl through complicated things as irony and sarcasm, and cynic one-liners (that’s more than some humans I know :-)).
Apart from winning primetime TV quizzes, Watson and a comparable research logarithm Wolfram|Alpha open new horizons that are way more down to earth than thinking machines taking over the planet. “Search” for instance. The best search engines available to the public (Google, Bing, etc) are based on keyword driven search. You type in a series of keywords, and the search logarithm gives you a series of links where those keywords are found. Mind you: neither Google or Bing answer your question, give you an answer to what you want to know. It gives you a suggestion of pages where your keywords can be found. Often, just finding a page where the keywords are featured enables us, humans, to browse ourselves through the content of the page, and find the answer of our question right there. We all got good at this keyword based content suggestion. We even think it gives us answers. But it is not ;-).
Using revolutionary natural language driven concepts like Watson and Wolfram|Alpha, the game will soon change. With their ability to cope with the eccentrics of our language, we will be able to ask these search engines a question and they will provide us with an aswer. As human-to-intelligence interface this is a giant leap forward, because we’re not taking shortcuts anymore but will be able to elevate “search” to its fullest extent: the ability to ask the web a question. Watch the video: Can you feel I’m excited? 😉