On February 14, 15, and 16 two Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter will face off against each other and a supercomputer named Watson. Named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, the supercomputer is comprised of 10 racks full of IBM Power 750 servers, with 15 terabytes of RAM and 2,880 processors operating at a collective 80 teraflops. To say this machine is powerful is a grand understatement. With Watson, IBM’s goal was to “build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.” And that it does. As you can see the in the video above, Watson performed extremely well at last week’s practice round of Jeopardy before the February main event. IBM has created a terrifyingly smart machine in Watson; not only does it simply answer questions but it also intuitively understands the questions being asked, buzzes in, and speaks in human-ish voice (not unlike 2001‘s Hal). In essence, when a question is asked Watson uses algorithms (brain power?) backed up by vast databases of learned knowledge to formulate a response. Watson is not controlled by outside forces (i.e. humans) and it is not connected to the Internet, so technically it’s not cheating.
During its development period engineers threw thousands of questions at it and so now they believe it’s ready for prime time. “After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the Jeopardy! clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response,” said Dr. David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team behind Watson. “Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson’s breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives.”
Or it will end up creating its own army of supercomputers and kill us all. Wondering how Watson did at the completion of the practice round? Watson: $4400. Jennings: $3400. Rutter: $1200. Watch Watson dominate this February and prepare for J-Day.
IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign acknowledges the importance of intelligent systems in the world today. In the retail industry, for example, consumer data around something as simple as color can have massive implications around shipping, inventory and, ultimately, overall sales. This interactive billboard is a simple and engaging virtual demonstration of how a smarter retail system can work.
In other words, IBM is trying to make retailers and consumers alike recognize the importance of technology in the retail industry. Imagine, if you will, a world where when you walked into a Gap clothing store, a digital personal assistent recognized you by what you were wearing and helped you pick out a new season of clothes based on previous choices and personal taste. Yeah, that’s what IBM is going for here.
Scientists at IBM have created the “biggest artificial brain ever” with a computer simulation (1.6 billion virtual neurons connected by 9 trillion synapses) that far surpasses the previous attempt (55 million neurons) to do such a thing. This year’s results simulate a cat’s brain, while the last time simulated a rat’s brain. Who’s up next? We are.
These massive simulations are merely steps toward Modha’s ultimate goal: simulating the entire human cortex, about 25 billion neurons, at full speed. To do that, he’ll need to find 1000 times more computing power. At the rate that supercomputers have expanded over the last 20 years, that super-super computer could exist by 2019. “This is not just possible, it’s inevitable,” [Dharmendra Modha, computer scientist] says. “This will happen.” [He adds:] “I’ll have it ready for you within the next decade.”
Modha meet SkyNet.
Well then, time to go out and buy all the Terminator movies and study up. Judgement Day is imminent.