What Watson Will Be Studying at RPI

James Hendler recently discussed what the arrival of Watson at RPI will mean  for the growing technology. He writes, "The Watson program is already a breakthrough technology in AI. For many years it had been largely assumed that for a computer to go beyond search and really be able to perform complex human language tasks it needed to do one of two things: either it would “understand” the texts using some kind of deep 'knowledge representation,' or it would have a complex statistical model based on millions of texts."

He goes on, "Watson used very little of either of these. Rather, it uses a lot of memory and clever ways of pulling texts from that memory. Thus, Watson demonstrated what some in AI had conjectured, but to date been unable to prove: that intelligence is tied to an ability to appropriately find relevant information in a very large memory. (Watson also used a lot of specialized techniques designed for the peculiarities of the Jeopardy! game, such as producing questions from answers, but from a purely academic viewpoint that’s less important.)"

Hendler adds, "Right now, to take Watson into a new domain — for example, to be able to answer questions about health and medicine — Watson works by reading texts. First, it needs a lot of information to go into its memory, which is generally provided by giving it a million or more documents to process from any particular area or discipline. Second, it needs to have information about the specialized terms used – for example, to be told that the word 'attack' in 'heart attack' is a noun and not a verb. Technical terms, such as, say, 'myocardial infarction' also need to be identified. Finally, to hone its ability in the new area it needs a combination of questions and answers to train from."

Read more here.

Image: Courtesy IBM