Archive for February, 2011

Om nom nom

February 25th, 2011

This is the food post I promised before XD I meant to post earlier, but I was moving this domain to a new host. Please let me know if anything looks broken!

Recently, I’ve been able to check some food places off my “must try” list. There’s a big trailer culture here, and a lot of the trailer food are actually gourmet and high quality. It’s taken me a while to try a lot of them because most of them are south, while I live north.
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Sorry, nerdy rambles

February 10th, 2011

I’m excited for February 14th! Why? If you guessed Valentine’s Day, that’s not quite right. We’re actually keeping it simple this year. We’re staying in, and I asked my fiance to cook me dinner XD

The 14th is the first day the Jeopardy episode with Watson, the supercomputer, will air. Being a programmer myself, I just find Watson fascinating. It makes you realize what kind of knowledge you take for granted.

While Watson does search for answers with all the data he has (he’s not connected to the internet), it’s not as simple as that. Jeopardy questions aren’t always straight forward. Watson has to figure out the important parts of the question, and then weigh all the answers he finds to see which is the most likely match.

It’s interesting because computer language doesn’t have the ambiguities human language has. Programming has a set list of syntax and is written in a set structure. Human language is vague with tons of exceptions. We deal with it through learning examples, common sense, and through context. These are things a computer doesn’t have unless we put it in through rules and machine learning.

I watched a show about Watson yesterday, and I liked seeing his early stages when he still had a lot of bugs. There was a question about a “first lady”, but Watson answered with “Richard Nixon” instead of his wife. To us, it’s obvious. Richard Nixon is male and cannot be an answer. This and other common knowledge like what “the ’40s” mean, how “Henry V” is “the fifth”, what a “flick” is… these are not obvious to a computer.

It also showed an example of Watson learning on the fly. The category was “Celebration Months”, so the answer is always a month. He didn’t realize that and would answer with “holiday”. After seeing the human players answer with months, he learned to look for months as an answer and was able to answer correctly.

Something like this might seem silly. What’s the point of making a computer learn Jeopardy? But why do so many movies have computers that can understand humans and then converse back? I think making computers learn human language and thought is a dream many have. Another thing is, Deep Blue was amazing back then. Now, that problem is fairly trivial. It’s not that difficult to write a chess playing program. I’m wondering when the day will be when Watson will be a simple problem to solve.