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This week, Jeopardy! received the highest ratings since 2006 for the three day series of Jeopardy! The IBM Challenge. In a three day championship tournament, IBM’s Watson computer played against Ken Jennings, the contestant with the longest winning streak and Brad Rutter, the contestant who has won the most money in Jeopardy! history.
There are many, many videos and blog postings from the IBM researchers who built Watson about the plans and process, the underlying technology, the mechanics of having a computer “see” and “hear” clues, particularly from the researchers, what we’ve learned about natural language, why Watson matters to computing, and how Watson determines how much to wager (very precise, compared to human contestants). There are some good discussions about the mistakes that Watson made during the game – and why Watson came to an erroneous conclusion. Interesting, too, are the reactions of the human contestants to Watson – an opponent who can’t be intimidated or discouraged. I encourage you to take a few moments and watch some of the vignettes.
A few other interesting articles/vignettes:
To apply this capability to performance improvement, we only need to think about speeding decision making on very complex issues, analyzing streams of data in nearly real time, and helping humans better understand interconnections and predict outcomes across ecosystems. Some of my colleagues have shared their thoughts on Watson’s ability to transform on the entertainment industry, healthcare, the legal profession and court system, healthcare, transportation, customer service, and Wall Street. Our own Anne Altman shared her thoughts on some applications to common government problems.
I can easily envision applications of Watson technology to some of the challenges we face in government. How could Watson support Department efforts to create the annual budget? Or to identify overlapping efforts across Departments and agencies to identify potential savings?
Our military and veterans health systems are complex and require analysis of large volumes of data over time; how could physicians be supported by real time analysis of patient and medical data?
Our intelligence community must turn disaggregated data -- text, image, historical information -- into a point of view with a stated degree of confidence. How could Watson support analysts in building a timely point of view with a given degree of confidence?
How could Watson support the Director of National Intelligence and the team that provides his morning briefing? Our nation has to balance the daily trade that moves people, goods and services into and out of the country with a need to maintain national security; how could Watson help the Department of Homeland Security align resources with varying threats?
How could Watson functionality smooth out some of the pain associated with regional traffic? Could Washington DC commuters, local businesses and government officials use better models and streams of data to avoid weather related challenges, decrease accident rates, and radically reduce how much time Washingtonians spend in transit?
There is lumpiness now in hiring and retraining Americans with skills that match business needs in the new economy – and continuously refreshing those skills as needs change. How could Watson connect business results, employment statistics and projection data to unemployment programs, community colleges, employers, workers and students?
How else could you use Watson?
At the end of the three day tournament, Watson beat the two best Jeopardy! winners in the game’s history. The final score: Watson earned $77,147, Ken Jennings earned $24,000, and Brad Rutter earned $21,600.
In case you’re disappointed that Ken and Brad didn’t dominate Watson, you’ll be cheered to know that the proceeds from the event support very worthy causes – World Vision and the World Community Grid. IBM is donating all winnings to causes we’ve supported for several years that promote a smarter planet. Ken Jennings is donating half of his winnings to Village Reach; Brad Rutter is donating half of his winnings to the Lancaster County Community Foundation.