Found at the NY Times, courtesy of the Computing Research Policy TumbleLog, an article about IBM’s research efforts to develop an application for its BlueGene platform that will let the computer compete with human contestants on Jeopardy! This is in the tradition of Deep Blue, the IBM SP that eventually beat champion chess player Gary Kasparov in a match in 1997.
But chess is a game of limits, with pieces that have clearly defined powers. “Jeopardy!” requires a program with the suppleness to weigh an almost infinite range of relationships and to make subtle comparisons and interpretations. The software must interact with humans on their own terms, and fast.
…The team is aiming not at a true thinking machine but at a new class of software that can “understand” human questions and respond to them correctly. Such a program would have enormous economic implications.
Happily, the computer will not be connected to the internet, but it will obviously have access to all the stuff it has synthesized prior to the contest.
I.B.M. will not reveal precisely how large the system’s internal database would be. The actual amount of information could be a significant fraction of the Web now indexed by Google, but artificial intelligence researchers said that having access to more information would not be the most significant key to improving the system’s performance.
Eric Nyberg, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, is collaborating with I.B.M. on research to devise computing systems capable of answering questions that are not limited to specific topics. The real difficulty, Dr. Nyberg said, is not searching a database but getting the computer to understand what it should be searching for.