Posted by: Anthony Kesterton | February 17, 2011

Watson distractions

When you lead the busy life of a technical professional, it is good to step back for a minute and look at something different (but somewhat related to the day job).  IBM’s Watson system playing Jeopardy has been the distraction this week.  for those of you that missed this – take a look at  This is all standard hardware but with some very sophisticated software loaded with a lot of information.  This system is NOT connected to the internet but putting together potential answers from its knowledgebase, working out confidence levels in the answer and then mechanically pushing a buzzer in a second or less if Watson decides to answer.

Well done to Watson – and all the humans who created him.

The implications for people or organisations trying to solve complex problems based on complex unstructured data is immense. IBM has already talked about turning the game show champ into systems for medical diagnosis.

Perhaps Ray Kurzweil and his predictions in his book “The Singularity is Near” is not as far-fetched as they at first appear.



  1. The question here is this : Is this the automation of operations that humans can do ( but would take an inordinate amount of time), or is this really a computer undertaking natural thinking and deducing an answer ? I suspect it is the first since there is mention of iteration over a knowledge base which is probably more realistic than the idea of a computer that ‘thinks’. I like the fact that Watson is not connected to the internet. There is so much garbage out there that it would probably come up with the wrong answers if the internet in general was used !

  2. I suppose the ‘natural thinking’ is a natural as it gets at the moment, seen as the computer was programmed by humans for specific natural language analysis and huge amounts of data mining.

    As you say it wasn’t connected to the internet at the point of playing Jeopardy, but it had been, sucking in a lot of data to enable up-to-date news that’s just been reported and facts, but I do agree this must have had certain restrictions, as ‘garbage IN, garbage OUT’.

    Now that Watson has partnered with Nuance ‘Speech Recognition’ software. We might end up with a really powerful Help Desk, one that responds quickly, can provide guidance through multiple solutions to the correct solution. Plus providing this in multiple formats, such as Autonomous Live Speech and Video.

    How long before it’s in our phone?

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