Why Watson Won ?


Jim Hendler
Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences
Director, Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications
Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute
Le mercredi 20 novembre 2013 à 9h30, Salle PK-1140
Why Watson Won ?




In 2011, the IBM computer program Watson beat the world’s best players at the quiz show Jeopardy! by a considerable margin.  In the time since, Watson has been being developed to handle medical diagnosis and other problems using the same general question-answering framework.  The capabilities of Watson exceeded the expectations of many in the AI and cognitive science communities, and the performance levels it shows in other tasks continues to be an exciting advance in human language technology.

Earlier this year, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute became the first academic institution to receive the Watson software.  We have been exploring how Watson’s DeepQA architecture can be used in tasks ranging from being an “open data advisor” to answering trivia questions about the Star Wars universe.    We have also been trying to gain insight into why it is that this particular architectural approach was able to do so well in what has been seen as a task requiring human problem solving.   In this talk, we discuss this latter question. We explain the process used by Watson in playing Jeopardy!, focusing on the question-answering pipeline and the various algorithms used therein.  In particular, I will explore how the pipeline compares to some other cognitive theories and whether there are insights we can gain from this approach with respect to human quiz show performance.



James Hendler is the Director of the Institute for Data Exploration and Applications and the Tetherless World Professor of Computer, Web and Cognitive Sciences at RPI.  He also serves as a Director of the UK’s charitable Web Science Trust.  Hendler has authored over 200 technical papers in the areas of Semantic Web, artificial intelligence, agent-based computing and high performance processing. One of the originators of the “Semantic Web,” Hendler was the recipient of a 1995 Fulbright Foundation Fellowship, is a former member of the US Air Force Science Advisory Board, and is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, the British Computer Society, the IEEE and the AAAS. He is also the former Chief Scientist of the Information Systems Office at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and was awarded a US Air Force Exceptional Civilian Service Medal in 2002. He is also the first computer scientist to serve on the Board of Reviewing editors for Science. In 2010, Hendler was named one of the 20 most innovative professors in America by Playboy magazine and was selected as an “Internet Web Expert” by the US government. In 2012, he was one of the inaugural recipients of the Strata Conference “Big Data” awards for his work on large-scale open government data, and he is a columnist and associate editor of the Big Data journal. In 2013, he was appointed Open Data Advisor to New York State by Governor Cuomo.