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Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everythingby Stephen Baker
Synopses & Reviews
The thrilling story of the computer that can play Jeopardy! Alex Trebek: Meet Watson.
For centuries, people have dreamed of creating a machine that thinks like a human. Scientists have made progress: computers can now beat chess grandmasters and help prevent terrorist attacks. Yet we still await a machine that exhibits the rich complexity of human thought — one that doesnt just crunch numbers, or take us to a relevant Web page, but understands us and gives us what we need.
That vision has driven a team of engineers at IBM. Over three years, they created “Watson” and prepared it for a showdown on Jeopardy!, where it would take on two of the games all-time champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, in a nationally televised event. Final Jeopardy is the entertaining, illuminating story of that computer and that epic match.
Its a classic tale of Man vs. Machine. Like its human competitors, Watson has to understand language, including puns and irony, and master everything from history, literature, and science to arts, entertainment, and game strategy. After years of training, Watson can find the scrambled state capital in “Hair Gel” (“What is Raleigh?”) and even come up with the facial accessory that made Moshe Dayan recognizable worldwide (“What is an eye patch?”). Watson may just be the smartest machine on earth.
Final Jeopardy traces the arc of Watsons “life,” from its birth in the IBM labs to its big night on the podium. We meet Hollywood moguls and Jeopardy! masters, genius computer programmers and ambitious scientists, including Watsons eccentric creator, David Ferrucci. We gain access to Ferruccis War Room, where the IBM team works tirelessly to boost Watsons speed to the buzzer, improve its performance in “train wreck” categories (such as “Books in Español”), and fix glitches like the speech defect Watson developed during its testing phase, when it started adding a d to words ending in n (“What is Pakistand?”).
Much is at stake, especially for IBM. A new generation of Watsons could transform medicine, the law, marketing, even science itself, as machines process huge amounts of data at lightning speed, answer our questions, and possibly come up with new hypotheses.
Showdown aside, its clear that the future has arrived. But with it come questions: Where does it leave humans? What will Watsons heirs be capable of in ten or twenty years? Is it time to declare defeat in the realm of facts? What should we teach our children? And what should we carry around in our own heads?
Final Jeopardy takes on these questions and more in a narrative thats as fast and fun as the game itself. Baker shows us how smart machines will fit into our world — and how theyll disrupt it.
"Forget chess — a television game show is the ultimate test of a thinking machine. Former Business Week technology writer Baker (The Numerati) delivers a sprightly account of IBM's quest to create a computer program, dubbed Watson, that can win at Jeopardy. Baker deftly explores the immense challenge that Jeopardy-style 'question answering' poses to a computer, which must comprehend the nuances, obscurities, and puns of natural language and master everything from Sumerian history to Superbowl winners. Watson is both an information-processing juggernaut, searching millions of documents per second, and a child-like naÃ¯f with odd speech impediments that thinks the Al in Alcoa stands for Al Capone (one embarrassing gaffe in a practice match prompted programmers to install a profanity filter). Like a cross between Born Yesterday and 2001: A Space Odyssey, Baker's narrative is both charming and terrifying; as Watson's intelligence relentlessly increases, we envision whole job sectors, from call center operators and marketing analysts to, well, quiz-show contestants, vanishing overnight. The result is an entertaining romp through the field of artificial intelligence — and a sobering glimpse of things to come. The book's final chapter, covering the actual games, which will air in mid-February, was not seen by PW. (Feb. 17)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Book News Annotation:
Technology journalist Baker reveals the story behind Watson, the IBM computer designed specifically to compete in the television quiz show Jeopardy! against some of the show's greatest champions. The nature of the show, with puns and other forms of wordplay complicating the task of recalling the wide range of knowledge prompted by Jeopardy!'s "answers," posed a significant challenge in artificial intelligence design, in some ways a far more subtle challenge than that faced by IBM's chess-playing computer, Deep Blue. Baker discusses the people behind the program, the origins and progress of the program, the computing and artificial intelligence issues raised, and related topics. (Following publication, Watson handily trounced former Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in the televised challenge.) Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The fun and fast-paced inside story of Watson, the computer that can play Jeopardy
The thrilling history and behind-the-scenes story of Watson, the computer created by IBM scientists to take on two masters of Jeopardy!, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, in a fast-paced look at how smart machines will change our world.
“The place to go if youre really interested in this version of the quest for creating Artificial Intelligence (AI).”—Seattle Times
For centuries, people have dreamed of creating a machine that thinks like a human. Scientists have made progress: computers can now beat chess grandmasters and help prevent terrorist attacks. Yet we still await a machine that exhibits the rich complexity of human thought—one that doesnt just crunch numbers, or take us to a relevant Web page, but understands us and gives us what we need. With the creation of Watson, IBMs Jeopardy! playing computer, we are one step closer to that goal.
But how did we get here? In Final Jeopardy, Stephen Baker traces the arc of Watsons “life,” from its birth in the IBM labs to its big night on the podium. We meet Hollywood moguls and Jeopardy! masters, genius computer programmers and ambitious scientists, including Watsons eccentric creator, David Ferrucci. We see how a new generation of Watsons could transform medicine, the law, marketing, even science itself, as machines process huge amounts of data at lightning speed, answer our questions, and possibly come up with new hypotheses. As fast and fun as the game itself, Final Jeopardy shows how smart machines will fit into our world—and how theyll disrupt it.
“Like Tracy Kidders Soul of a New Machine, Bakers book finds us at the dawn of a singularity. Its an excellent case study, and does good double duty as a Philip K. Dick scenario, too.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Bakers narrative is both charming and terrifying . . . an entertaining romp through the field of artificial intelligence—and a sobering glimpse of things to come.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Praise for Stephen Bakers The Numerati "A highly readable and fascinating account of the number-driven world we now live in."—Wall Street Journal "A must-read for anyone who wants to understand life and business in the Google Age."—Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired and author of The Long Tail "An utterly fascinating book . . . [that] manages to explain this cutting-edge phenomenon and its sometimes frightening impacts in accessible prose."—Seattle Post-Intelligencer "An eye-opening and chilling book."—Portfolio "A fascinating and fast read. Baker has a knack for describing statistical techniques in ways that everyone can understand, without formulas and without jargon, while illustrating them with real-world issues."—National Review "The Numerati is a rare read, as enlightening as it is entertaining. It will change the way you look at life."—Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post
About the Author
STEPHEN BAKER was BusinessWeek's senior technology writer for a decade, based first in Paris and later New York. He has also written for the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. Roger Lowenstein called his first book, The Numerati, "an eye-opening and chilling book." Baker blogs at finaljeopardy.net.
Table of Contents
1. The Germ of the Jeopardy Machine 19
2. And Representing the Humans 42
3. Blue J Is Born 62
4. Educating Blue J 81
5. Watsons Face 104
6. Watson Takes On Humans 124
7. AI 148
8. A Season of Jitters 170
9. Watson Looks for Work 189
10. How to Play the Game 210
11. The Match 232
Sources and Further Reading 267
About the Author 269
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