006.3, Final Jeopardy: Man Vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, by Stephen Baker (2011).

I used to watch Jeopardy a while back (maybe when I was in high school?).  I haven’t seen it in years, but was vaguely intrigued when the news broke earlier this year that a computer was playing against two champions, and winning.  IBM conceived of the challenge as a way to demonstrate their abilities at programming and generate buzz for the company, in much the same way that their computer Deep Blue achieved notoriety when it became the first machine to win a chess match against a world champion, Gary Kasparov.

Baker’s book, which must have been rushed into print the minute the last game was finished, looks at the work that went into making the computer, dubbed Watson.  Much of the book centers around the algorithms that Watson used to answer different kinds of questions and the many mistakes that the computer made (and still makes) when faced with certain syntax or metaphorical language.  This was ultimately the most interesting part of the book, I thought, as it highlighted the difference between intelligence, in all of its complexity and nuance, and accuracy in a task of logic, which is essentially what Watson used in answering.

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One Response to Intelligence

  1. Laura says:

    The ever-shrinking definition of “intelligence”: whatever a chimp or computer can’t do.

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