Watson Appears at Louisville’s IdeaFestival

by Devin Katayama on September 21, 2011

IBM’s Watson computer is using its technology to explore how it can help government agencies and hospitals.

Watson appeared in front of a crowd at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts for Louisville’s IdeaFestival. Watson is best known for its success in the game show Jeopardy. IBM researcher David Shepler explained to a crowd Watson’s successes, and its limitations.

“Watson’s going to do a whole lot of things to help free up our time so we can  be more inventive and create. Watson is not going to be creative for us,” he said.

Shepler said Watson works out ideas just like the human brain and uses a series of complex organizing to reach its answers. During Jeopardy, the computer will choose an answer and decide how much it trusts it. If it reaches a certain level of confidence it will decide to answer the question (the picture above shows percentages of trust). But Watson’s success isn’t just that it can research information quickly, he said.

“The fundamental differences are the precision in the system to tell you exactly your answer and to tell you much to trust that answer. In the case of a search engine you have no idea, you have to make that assessment for yourself. If you see an article in the New York Times, maybe you trust that more than Joe’s blog,” said Shepler.

Watson is often confused by language like metaphors or culture references but Watson’s best assets won’t be popular culture or trivia, he said. IBM researchers are currently testing technology that can be used in the medical field to help doctors make decisions (IBM’s Burn Lewis, pictured below, runs the modified version of Jeopardy. Lewis said IMB’s research and software divisions are working together to explore new options for Watson’s technology).

Shepler said the way humans interact with computers is changing, but it’s far from taking over human creativity. After Sheplers’ presentation, students challenged the computer to a game of Jeopardy. Shepler said Jeopardy contestants can answer a question in three seconds on average. Often, Watson is faster.

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Mayor’s Office Will Relocate to IdeaFestival

by admin September 15, 2011

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and his staff are relocating their offices to the IdeaFestival next week to help promote the annual event and encourage innovative thinking. Founded in 2000, the three-day festival is setup to bring people from around the world to the city with diverse backgrounds, knowledge and perspectives on various cutting-edge ideas. The […]

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The Superorganism

by Laura Ellis September 25, 2009

Sure, they have a bad reputation for ruining picnics, but there’s more to ants than that. According to sociobiologist Bert Hölldobler, they have complex societies and behaviors, and they live by intricate rules of social order. Listen to the Show

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A.J. Jacobs

by Laura Ellis September 24, 2009

A.J. Jacobs, author of The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment, takes the idiom “walk a mile in my shoes” to a whole other level. For The Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs strictly followed all the rules of the Old Testament including not wearing clothes of mixed fibers in an effort to understand the Bible. In The Know-It-All, Jacobs attempted to become smarter by reading the encyclopedia from A to Z. He would be the first to tell you it didn’t work. His latest book details other immersive experiences he’s undergone to get to know his subjects better. It’s an unusual approach to journalism and life that has led to telling and often comical insights into who we are and who we could be.
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Mr. Jefferson & the Giant Moose

by Laura Ellis September 23, 2009

Thomas Jefferson took great pride in his country, and great offense when French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc de Buffon said everything in the natural world of America, from the animals to the humans, was inferior to its European kin. Jefferson took matters into his own hands and had an American Moose carcass shipped to France with the intention of having it stuffed and mounted to prove to Buffon that our moose were superior to any animal in Europe. So what’s the real story here? Listen to the Show

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The Intersection of Literature & Science

by Laura Ellis September 26, 2008

Jonah Lehrer, author, journalist, scientist, chef – with a double major in neuroscience and English. So isn’t it interesting that his “aha” moment came when he was taking a break from a neuroscience experiment and decided to read a little Marcel Proust? Once Lehrer began reading “Swann’s Way” he realized Proust was talking about the very thing he was trying to prove in the lab – and the result of this discovery was his book “Proust was a Neuroscientist”. Listen to the Show

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Come See State of Affairs at IdeaFestival!

by Laura Ellis September 24, 2008

Come See State of Affairs at IdeaFestival! If you’re planning to be at the IdeaFestival on Thursday or Friday, stop by and visit with State of Affairs. We’ll be in the lobby just inside the main entrance, with Julie and our guests, broadcasting live. Come listen in and sit a spell on your lunch break […]

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