Fable 139 – The Horse, the Ox, the Dog and the Man
When Zeus made man, he only gave him a short life-span. But man, making use of his intelligence, made a house and lived in it when winter came on. Then, one day, it became fiercely cold, it poured with rain and the horse could no longer endure it. So he galloped up to the man’s house and asked if he could take shelter with him. But the man said that he could only shelter there on one condition, and that was that the horse would give him a portion of the years of his life. The horse gave him some willingly.A short time later, the ox also appeared. He too could not bear the bad weather any more. The man said the same thing to him, that he wouldn’t give him shelter unless the ox gave him a certain number of his own years. The ox gave him some and was allowed to go in.Finally the dog, dying of cold, also appeared, and upon surrendering part of the time he had left to live, was given shelter.Thus it resulted that for that portion of time originally allotted them by Zeus, men are pure and good; when they reach the years gained from the horse, they are glorious and proud; when they reach the years of the ox, they are willing to accept discipline; but when they reach the dog years, they become grumbling and irritable.
One could apply this fable to surly old men.
Ray Kurzweil has written glowingly of Watson as an important technology milestoneIndeed no human can do what a search engine does, but computers have still not shown an ability to deal with the subtlety and complexity of language. Humans, on the other hand, have been unique in our ability to think in a hierarchical fashion, to understand the elaborate nested structures in language, to put symbols together to form an idea, and then to use a symbol for that idea in yet another such structure. This is what sets humans apart.That is, until now. Watson is a stunning example of the growing ability of computers to successfully invade this supposedly unique attribute of human intelligence.I understand where Kurzweil is coming from, but nevertheless, this is a fair bit stronger statement than I’d make. As an AI researcher myself I’m quite aware of the all subtlety that goes into “thinking in a hierarchical fashion,” “forming ideas,” and so forth. What Watson does is simply to match question text against large masses of possible answer text — and this is very different than what an AI system will need to do to display human-level general intelligence. Human intelligence has to do with the synergetic combination of many things, including linguistic intelligence but also formal non-linguistic abstraction, non-linguistic learning of habits and procedures, visual and other sensory imagination, creativity of new ideas only indirectly related to anything heard or read before, etc. An architecture like Watson barely scratches the surface!
Indeed, playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face. Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It’s very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman.
Yesterday, on Jeopardy!, a computer handily beat its human competitors. Stephen Gordon asks, “Did the Singularity Just Happen on Jeopardy?” If so, then I think it’s time for me and my co-bloggers to pack up and go home, because the Singularity is damned underwhelming. This was one giant leap for robot publicity, but only a small step for robotkind.
- With the category “Beatles People” and the clue “‘Bang bang’ his ‘silver hammer came down upon her head,’” Watson responded, “What is Maxwell’s silver hammer.” Surprisingly, Alex Trebek accepted this response as correct, even though the category and clue were clearly asking for the name of a person, not a thing.
- With the category “Olympic Oddities” and the clue “It was the anatomical oddity of U.S. gymnast George Eyser, who won a gold medal on the parallel bars in 1904,” Watson responded, “What is leg.” The correct response was, “What is he was missing a leg.”
- In the “Name the Decade” category, Watson at one point didn’t seem to know what the category was asking for. With the clue “Klaus Barbie is sentenced to life in prison & DNA is first used to convict a criminal,” none of its top three responses was a decade. (Correct response: “What is the 1980s?”)
- Also in the category “Name the Decade,” there was the clue, “The first modern crossword puzzle is published & Oreo cookies are introduced.” Ken responded, “What are the twenties.” Trebek said no, and then Watson rang in and responded, “What is 1920s.” (Trebek came back with, “No, Ken said that.”)
- With the category “Literary Character APB,” and the clue “His victims include Charity Burbage, Mad Eye Moody & Severus Snape; he’d be easier to catch if you’d just name him!” Watson didn’t ring in because his top option was Harry Potter, with only 37% confidence. His second option was Voldemort, with 20% confidence.
- On one clue, Watson’s top option (which was correct) was “Steve Wynn.” Its second-ranked option was “Stephen A. Wynn” — the full name of the same person.
- With the clue “In 2002, Eminem signed this rapper to a 7-figure deal, obviously worth a lot more than his name implies,” Watson’s top option was the correct one — 50 Cent — but its confidence was too low to ring in.
- With the clue “The Schengen Agreement removes any controls at these between most EU neighbors,” Watson’s first choice was “passport” with 33% confidence. Its second choice was “Border” with 14%, which would have been correct. (Incidentally, it’s curious to note that one answer was capitalized and the other was not.)
- In the category “Computer Keys” with the clue “A loose-fitting dress hanging from the shoulders to below the waist,” Watson incorrectly responded “Chemise.” (Ken then incorrectly responded “A,” thinking of an A-line skirt. The correct response was a “shift.”)
- Also in “Computer Keys,” with the clue “Proverbially, it’s ‘where the heart is,’” Watson’s top option (though it did not ring in) was “Home Is Where the Heart Is.”
- With the clue “It was 103 degrees in July 2010 & Con Ed’s command center in this N.Y. borough showed 12,963 megawatts consumed at 1 time,” Watson’s first choice (though it did have enough confidence to ring in) was “New York City.”
- In the category “Nonfiction,” with the clue “The New Yorker’s 1959 review of this said in its brevity & clarity it is ‘unlike most such manuals, a book as well as a tool.’” Watson incorrectly responded “Dorothy Parker.” The correct response was “The Elements of Style.”
- For the clue “One definition of this is entering a private place with the intent of listening secretly to private conversations,” Watson’s first choice was “eavesdropper,” with 79% confidence. Second was “eavesdropping,” with 49% confidence.
- For the clue “In May 2010 5 paintings worth $125 million by Braque, Matisse & 3 others left Paris’ museum of this art period,” Watson responded, “Picasso.”
- Failure to understand what type of thing the clue was pointing to, e.g. “Maxwell’s silver hammer” instead of “Maxwell”; “leg” instead of “he was missing a leg”; “eavesdropper” instead of “eavesdropping.”
- Failure to understand what type of thing the category was pointing to, e.g.,“Home Is Where the Heart Is” for “Computer Keys”; “Toronto” for “U.S. cities.”
- Basic errors in worldly logic, e.g. repeating Ken’s wrong response; considering “Steve Wynn” and “Stephen A. Wynn” to be different responses.
- Inability to understand jokes or puns in clues, e.g. 50 Cent being “worth” “more than his name implies”; “he’d be easier to catch if you’d just name him!” about Voldemort.
- Inability to respond to clues lacking keywords specifically associated with the correct respone, e.g. the Voldemort clue; “Dorothy Parker” instead of “The Elements of Style.”
- Inability to correctly respond to complicated clues that involve inference and combining facts in subsequent stages, rather than combining independent associated clues; e.g. the Chicago airport clue.