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Dan Ronco

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Books by Dan Ronco
Softrware Keeps Getting Smarter
By Dan Ronco
Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2011
Last edited: Thursday, February 24, 2011
This short story was "not rated" by the Author.
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Recent stories by Dan Ronco
· A View of United States Energy Supplies in 2028
· The Unique Structure of my Novels
· Dan Ronco Interviewed on Fascinating Authors
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           >> View all 6
IBM's Watson demonstrates its intelligence by defeating two Jeopardy champions. Is this another step toward a PeaceMaker virus?

Welcome to the future!

Watson, a highly intelligent IBM computer, and two Jeopardy champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, concluded their final round of Jeopardy! with artificial intelligence the winner. And that means humanity is the real winner. Watson’s ability to process and analyze unstructured data and interpret natural language is a great step forward toward a future that science fiction writers like myself have dreamed about for decades. If we can teach a computer to compete on Jeopardy!, then what will be achieved in the coming years? Move over Star Trek.

For those who haven’t heard the news, IBM's supercomputer Watson defeated two of Jeopardy‘s champions, and it wasn’t even close. Watson, named after IBM’s founder, is based upon DeepQA, software that powers hundreds of simultaneous algorithmic calculations, which enables the machine to parse human speech patterns, check them against its vast database of knowledge, and provide a most likely answer and a confidence level for that answer. To run all those algorithms, Watson includes a hardware platform of 90 32-core IBM Power 750 Express servers and 16 terabytes of memory.

For I.B.M., the showdown was not merely a well-publicized stunt and a $1 million prize, but proof that the company has taken a big step toward a world in which intelligent machines will understand and respond to humans, and perhaps inevitably, replace some of them.

Watson, specifically, is a “question answering machine” of a type that artificial intelligence researchers have struggled with for decades — a computer akin to the one in my novel PeaceMaker that can understand questions posed in natural language and answer them. Luckily, unlike PeaceMaker,Watson doen't have a thirst for power. At least not yet.

Watson showed itself to be imperfect, but researchers at I.B.M. and other companies are already developing uses for Watson’s technologies that could have a significant impact on the way corporations build products, doctors practice medicine and consumers buy goods. Watson is a big step forward into a future that may be startling.


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