I'd say the nature of the Jeopardy application positions it for expansion to a wide range of applications (not just a one-trick-pony). It is mining and combining information across a wide range of human knowledge and also managing linguistic features. That is hard work. Even educated people with access to reference materials can't necessarily answer some of these questions.
The extraordinary task that Watson is taking on is contextual analysis and problem solving in essentially random domains. Anyone can design a machine to grind flour (2 rocks work) but the raw ingredients must be presented just right and the machine doesn't do anything else useful. In this case, Watson is taking on a "knowledge" problem (not just a brute force mathematical calculation or the very constrained game of chess) that challenges the most skilled humans in the world. Kudos!
well humans have made computers and now computers will compete against humans. Great idea! It sounds great to hear as long as its a game or something for fun. IBM deserves appreciation for keeping on doing something to prove they are masters in this field.
... Worst case, I guess, would be if the witty repartee went something like this...
Alex: Watson, do you come from a nontraditional family?
Watson: What is the first question that Alex asked Watson today?
Watson: What is the unit of power, as defined by the Scottish engineer James Watt?
Alex: Ay Jesus.
Watson: What were the last words of Charles V, King of France?
Would you be WOWed if the computer engaged in witty repartee with Alex in the "getting to know you" part of the show?
Alex: So, Watson, I understand you come from a non-traditional family.
Watson: That's right, Alex. My two dads are David Ferrucci and John E. Kelly III. They may be nerds, but they are the Best Dads Ever! In fact, when I was driving them to the show today...
Alex: Just a minute there, Watson! YOU drove THEM to the show?
Watson: Yes, Alex, but it wasn't easy. You might say it was a hard drive! Ha! Ha!
I also fail to see the "wow factor" in this. But, that's part of the beauty of it in my mind. A very complex problem broken down to a massive amount of very simple problems. Isn't that what any computer is? Simply a massive amount of very basic logic gates.
Quite a number of years ago, I was told that the color television was the most complex device ever created. I'm sure there is some hyperbole in that statement, but it was an extremely complex design. Taking that functionality and replicating it on a generic computing platform, to a certain extent, has the same lack of wow as using a massive computer to win at Jeopardy, but as I see it, the "wow factor" is in the ability to simplify and use more or less generic hardware to solve those problems.
Regardless of how it is done, at some point, such a machine will be indistinguishable from a human. When that is the case, does really it matter whether it's brute force or a system designed to truly emulate the human brain?
p_g I don't think they are trying to make one above human brain, if at all they can. The challenge is to make it do any task which humans do with ease but these tasks have been shown to have enormous computational requirement which makes it daunting.
This is a great breakthrough and would sure go a long way in understanding the analytics of human cognition.
Will the game be telecast live? Hope someone puts it on youtube for all users.