Last night I watched NOVA on PBS and found myself completely taken in watching the program. That’s something rare for me these days when I watch a science program because almost always somebody figures out a way to work in climate change or global warming or Al Gore or catastrophic weather and ruins the moment. Last night’s episode was the rare exception.
Yes, in case you have not heard, IBM has created an AI machine to play Jeopardy!. Now mind you, this is not just any game of Jeopardy!, but a game against the two biggest superstars the program has ever produced; Ken Jennings, who won 74 games straight, and Brad Rutter, the all time money winner. The show debuts next week, on the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge, February 14, 15, and 16.
I was very impressed for two reasons:
- The strength of programming behind this machine
- The fact that this is a uniquely American achievement that we can be proud of
Watch this video of a test round with the players to get an idea of the scale of this accomplishment.
But what is it good for besides playing Jeopardy!?
The science behind the programming is pattern recognition combined with machine learning, and this feature, combined with a huge database of knowledge, may soon allow for a truly interactive computer that we’ve all come to know via SciFi like the ships computer on Star Trek. For example, a health care computer that could take in your symptoms and respond with a possible diagnosis.
Mark your calendar to watch Jeopardy! next week, this is science history being made.