[Beowulf] IBM's Watson on Jeopardy tonight

David Mathog mathog at caltech.edu
Wed Feb 16 08:42:44 PST 2011

Glen Beane <Glen.Beane at jax.org> wrote:

> On Feb 16, 2011, at 3:27 AM, Jonathan Aquilina
<eagles051387 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > To be tied with a human though i feel means they are on par with humans.
> > 
> At answering questions on Jeopardy or playing chess (deep blue). These
are designed to do a very specific task well. 

It was too bad they didn't reveal how the computer set its dollar values
for daily doubles.  They were very, very different from what a human
would have wagered.  My impression was that one factor was how well it
was doing in that category, so if it had already answered some questions
right it would bet more than when it hit the daily double on the first
question.  There is apparently a rule in Jeopardy that a wager cannot
bet less than $5 on a daily double, and since the regular questions are
all multiples of ten, this may have factored in somehow to result in
machine wagers that ended in 5.

It was also interesting that the second answer on the machine's list was
often clearly ruled out by the question, yet would have a probability
like 30%.  The only example of this I remember gave a year in the 1600's
and asked who the Lucasian Chair was at that time.  The machine did pick
Newton, but its second best answer was Stephen Hawking, who was
obviously not around at the time.  A human would have put one of
Newton's contemporaries in that spot, and probably not remembering the
occupants of that chair before and after Newton (neither of whom was
remotely as famous), might have listed somebody like Robert Hooke, who
was better known than either of them, and more likely to be remembered
by somebody with a good background in Science, but not a PhD in the
history of mathematics.


David Mathog
mathog at caltech.edu
Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech

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