"Smartest Computer on Earth"

Description of the Technology

Watson redefines what computers are capable of, however it does come at a price. The development of Watson is in the tens of millions of dollars, but its knowledge is priceless. Let’s see what tens of millions of dollars does to a computer system.

There are two ways to develop a computer system. One way is to write the recipe and hope it comes out right. The second way is to let the system grow from examples, which is the way Watson was created (“Smartest Machine on Earth”). Computers have a knowledge base like humans and are great resources when needing to find an answer to a question; their weakness is comprehending the questions. For example no computer can understand the famous words of Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question” (“Will Watson Win Jeopardy?”).

One of the first stages of Watson was the storage of its power 7processors, all 2,800 of them. Two thousand eight hundred processors is equivalent to 6000 high end home personal computers. The size of the 2,800 processors is ten home refrigerators. Watson is stored in a cooled environment at IBM’s facility in Yorktown, New York (Nosowitz).

With 750 servers in each “refrigerator”, the storage space is 15 trillion bytes. With 15 trillion bytes the IBM Watson team downloaded ten million documents from the internet to store onto the processors. All the documents had to be downloaded into the storage because just like the contestants, Watson was not allowed to use the internet during Jeopardy. Also like the other contestants on Jeopardy, Watson had to audition for his spot on “America’s most challenging trivia game.”

On December 10, 2009 Jeopardy producers came to see Watson. The end result was disappointing to the IBM research team. Some of IBM’s staff was able to beat the computer and in some cases Watson didn’t answer one question correctly. This audition showed that Watson didn’t understand Roman numerals, gender differences such as him or her, decades presented in the formats of 40s. Overall the producers were impressed but knew that Watson was not ready to play the game (Anderson).

The IBM team went back to the development room and started integrating the sync program into Watson. Now Watson would use a common sense knowledge base along with its machine learning to answer questions. It took the developers four months to perfect the systems and on April 26th, 2010 the Jeopardy producers came back.

April 26th, 2010 was the day Watson was approved for Jeopardy and the Jeopardy: IBM grand Challenge was to take place February 14th – 16th, 2011.