As you have likely heard, the competition began last night between IBM’s Watson computer and Jeopardy’s 2 greatest champions. The competition is described in a Chronicle of Higher Education story yesterday. Today the New York times is offering a game where you can test your Jeopardy skills against Watson.
I think that at least for the foreseeable future, the best way to use computers for arriving at correct answers is what Google captured that revolutionized search engines by placing human knowledge into an open network where the crowd reviews it. I will bet that a Google search will correctly answer any question asked in this contest, and do so faster than either Watson or the past champions. If that is not true, I think it will be true in the future as algorithms continue to be perfected for using networks to capture the wisdom of the crowd.
You may think me daft, but I poo-poo Watson knowing that network science is not yet in the mainstream and has a lot of enlightenment to bring to the sciences. This is a course now being taught by Barabasi, who discovered scale-free networks and is one of the handful of seminal network scientists. The lectures do not have audio (I hope that is coming!) but the PowerPoints are worth downloading to review the images if you are interested in this topic. The first lecture has a slide quoting Stephen Hawking saying: “I think the next century will be the century of complexity.” Two slides later this simple statement sums things up: “Behind each complex system there is a network that defines the interactions between the components.” Crowd wisdom is a product of the mammoth open internet.
For example: Mobile phones and internet access have provided in Egypt (65% have the devices) a network that allows the citizenry a role in defining things.
I think the Jeopardy competition will be fun to watch, but that Watson amounts to IBM spending a whole lot of money on something very 20th century.
Yes, I realize the artificial intelligence and natural language folks believe they are working on the future. Perhaps they have enough appreciation for the roles of complexity and network science — but that I doubt.