Indeed, the creators of the system — which the company refers to as Watson, after the I.B.M. founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr. — said they were not yet confident their system would be able to compete successfully on the show, on which human champions typically provide correct responses 85 percent of the time.But can it manipulate the buzzer to successfully ring in first? That's the real secret of doing well on Jeopardy.
“The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms,” said the team leader, David A. Ferrucci, an I.B.M. artificial intelligence researcher. “And we’re not there yet.”
The team is aiming not at a true thinking machine but at a new class of software that can “understand” human questions and respond to them correctly. Such a program would have enormous economic implications.
Despite more than four decades of experimentation in artificial intelligence, scientists have made only modest progress until now toward building machines that can understand language and interact with humans.
The proposed contest is an effort by I.B.M. to prove that its researchers can make significant technical progress by picking “grand challenges” like its early chess foray. The new bid is based on three years of work by a team that has grown to 20 experts in fields like natural language processing, machine learning and information retrieval.
I say that they should do the showdown and put it on in primetime. All of mankind has an interest in the outcome of such a contest. While it's exciting to think of the advances in artificial intelligence, I would still have to pull for the hometeam - the human.