Skip to comments.Engineering Intelligence: Why IBM’s Jeopardy-Playing Computer Is So Important
Posted on 02/11/2011 11:24:04 AM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
Language is arguably what makes us most human. Even the smartest and chattiest of the animal kingdom have nothing on our lingual cognition.
In computer science, the Holy Grail has long been to build software that understands and can interact with natural human language. But dreams of a real-life Johnny 5 or C-3PO have always been dashed on the great gulf between raw processing power and the architecture of the human mind. Computers are great at crunching large sets of numbers. The mind excels at assumption and nuance.
Enter Watson, an artificial intelligence project from IBM thats over five years in the making and about to prove itself to the world next week. The supercomputer, named for the technology companys founder, will be competing with championship-level contestants on the quiz show Jeopardy!. The episodes will air on February 14, 15 and 16, and if recent practice rounds are any indication, Watson is in it to win it.
At first blush, building a computer with vast amounts of knowledge at its disposal seems mundane in our age. Google has already indexed a wide swath of the worlds codified information, and can surface almost anything with a handful of keywords. The difference is that Google doesnt understand a question like, What type of weapon is also the name of a Beatles record? It may yield some information about The Beatles, or perhaps an article that mentions weapons and The Beatles, but its not conceptualizing that the weapon and recording in question have the same name: Revolver.
Achieving this is what makes Watson a contender on Jeopardy!, a quiz known for nuance, puns, double entendres and complex language designed to mislead human contestants. Google Search, or any common semantic software, wouldnt stand a chance against these lingual acrobatics.
What Watson achieves is, quite frankly, mind boggling. And the rig that sustains it is equally so, with hardware consisting of 90 IBM Power 750 Express servers. Each server utilizes a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight-core processor, with four threads per core. Top that off with 16 terabytes of RAM, and youve got a hearty machine that can almost run Call of Duty: Black Ops without lag.
In seriousness, this computational muscle is what drives IBMs DeepQA software, the real star of the Watson show. Hundreds of algorithms run simultaneously in order to deduce meaning from a clue, check it against hordes of relevant data, and decide which response is most likely to be correct. Watson then determines if it is confident enough in the answer to buzz in at all. The entire process takes place in under three seconds.
This feat of answering open questions, as computer scientists call them, puts IBMs last big AI triumph the chess-playing, Garry Kasparov-beating Deep Blue into perspective. While chess is a complex game, the number of legal moves available at any time is finite. Not so, with natural language.
To document this historic leap in computer science, IBM allowed one journalist Stephen Baker unmatched access inside its labs. Bakers new book, Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, chronicles Watson from the early days of development to its deployment behind the Jeopardy! podium. The e-book is available now, and to avoid spoilers, readers will be able to download the final chapter, which analyzes Watsons televised match against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the day after the finale airs (February 17).
We had the opportunity to interview Mr. Baker and discuss what makes Watson tick, as well as the projects ramifications for the future of artificial intelligence.
The amount of hardware driving this is huge....
I’ve heard that WATSON is a compulsive gambler, and will blow all the money he earns on Jeopardy, in Las Vegas at the tables.
This sounds like it will also make excellent voice translation possible. Being able to have real time conversations in a foreign language using a PDA device would be amazing.
Will add some detail.
HA HA HAhahahahahaahha! True and very funny in a frustrating way.
Wait until it becomes self-aware. It will decide our fate in a microsecond.
From Feb 2010:
IBM on Monday launched its latest Power7 processor, which adds more cores and improved multithreading capabilities to boost the performance of servers requiring high up time.
The Power7 chip has up to eight cores, with each core able to run four threads, IBM said. A Power7 chip can run 32 tasks simultaneously, which is quadruple the number of cores on the older Power6 chip. The Power7 will also run up to eight times more threads than Power6 cores.
Power7 chips will run between 3.0GHz and 4.14GHz, said Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM's Power Systems unit, during a press event in New York on Monday. The chip will come with four, six or eight cores.
The chips are being made using the 45-nm process technology. The company has made memory-level improvements that should enable the processor to execute tasks faster.
Power7 systems will deliver twice the performance of older Power6 systems, but be four times more energy efficient, Mauri said. The systems will run operating systems including AIX and enterprise Linux offered by Red Hat and Suse.
The new chip also has TurboCore technology, which allows customers to crank up the speed of active cores for performance gains. The technology also puts memory and bandwidth from eight cores behind the four active cores to drive up the performance gains per core.
The company also launched four Power7-based servers. IBM Power 780 and Power 770 high-end servers are based on modular designs and come with up to 64 Power7 cores. The IBM Power 755 will support up to 32 Power7 cores. The company also launched the 750 Express server. The Power 750 Express and 755 will ship on Feb. 19, while the Power 770 and 780 will become available on March 16.
In addition to boosting performance, the Power7 servers can save more energy, IBM said. A technology called Unique Intelligent Energy allows parts of a system to be switched off to reduce power drawn. The technology also allows the processor clock speed to be cranked down on a single server or across a pool of multiple servers, which can reduce power consumed.
The amount of hardware driving this is huge....
1) In 1996 I bought a >16Megabyte machine
2) In 2010 I bought a 16Gigabyte machine
3) Give it 14 years, and 16 Terabytes will be a high end workstation
4) A few years after that, it will be on everyone’s desktop and phone
It is a 53 minute video that is facinating from start to finish.
We could create a babelfish finally!
-IBM POWER7 server at Rice University Data Center
I dont think it will be 14 years before we see something approaching this on a desktop
more like 5 or 10
The IBM Power 750 Express server offers up to 32 POWER7 processor cores supporting up to 128 simulataneous computing threads in a 4U rack-mounted package.
Designed to accomodate mid-sized database serving and application consolidation, the IBM Power 750 Express systems offers a reliable and efficient server platform that supports IBM i, AIX, and x86 Linux workloads. The Power 750 Express servers are ENERGY STAR qualified, with a number of power management features designed to conserve energy. Other features include:
It is just a bigger computer that draws from a database at a faster speed and analyzes the statistics of an answer being correct. So no self-awareness.
You young whipper-snapper!
In MY day, they gave us an "enormous" 64 KILObytes of memory and we said, "Thank you, sir". ;-)
See the photo above.
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