A Really Expensive Way To Win A Game Show
John Seabrook wonders whether Watson, IBM's Jeopardy playing machine, will truly have commercial applications. Steven Pinker isn't sure:
I don’t rule out the possibility that some components of Watson could both provide insight into human cognition and lay the groundwork for more sophisticated artificial intelligence applications, such as natural language processing (the fancy term for understanding human languages like English, as opposed to computer languages). On the other hand, when a system is designed to meet a highly specific challenge like playing Jeopardy, and one where the reputations of the designers are on the line, there will be enormous pressure to tailor the system to succeeding at that challenge by any means whatsoever, including kludges that are specific to the rather peculiar requirements of the game of Jeopardy.