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Final Jeopardy: The Story of Watson, the Computer That Will Transform Our World

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“The place to go if you’re really interested in this version of the quest for creating Artificial Intelligence (AI).”—Seattle Times For centuries, people have dreamed of creating a machine that thinks like a human. Scientists have made progress: computers can now beat chess grandmasters and help prevent terrorist attacks. Yet we still await a machine that exhibits the rich “The place to go if you’re really interested in this version of the quest for creating Artificial Intelligence (AI).”—Seattle Times For centuries, people have dreamed of creating a machine that thinks like a human. Scientists have made progress: computers can now beat chess grandmasters and help prevent terrorist attacks. Yet we still await a machine that exhibits the rich complexity of human thought—one that doesn’t just crunch numbers, or take us to a relevant Web page, but understands us and gives us what we need. With the creation of Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy! playing computer, we are one step closer to that goal. But how did we get here? In Final Jeopardy, Stephen Baker traces the arc of Watson’s “life,” from its birth in the IBM labs to its big night on the podium. We meet Hollywood moguls and Jeopardy! masters, genius computer programmers and ambitious scientists, including Watson’s eccentric creator, David Ferrucci. We see how a new generation of Watsons could transform medicine, the law, marketing, even science itself, as machines process huge amounts of data at lightning speed, answer our questions, and possibly come up with new hypotheses. As fast and fun as the game itself, Final Jeopardy shows how smart machines will fit into our world—and how they’ll disrupt it. “Like Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine, Baker’s book finds us at the dawn of a singularity. It’s an excellent case study, and does good double duty as a Philip K. Dick scenario, too.”—Kirkus Reviews “Baker’s narrative is both charming and terrifying . . . an entertaining romp through the field of artificial intelligence—and a sobering glimpse of things to come.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review


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“The place to go if you’re really interested in this version of the quest for creating Artificial Intelligence (AI).”—Seattle Times For centuries, people have dreamed of creating a machine that thinks like a human. Scientists have made progress: computers can now beat chess grandmasters and help prevent terrorist attacks. Yet we still await a machine that exhibits the rich “The place to go if you’re really interested in this version of the quest for creating Artificial Intelligence (AI).”—Seattle Times For centuries, people have dreamed of creating a machine that thinks like a human. Scientists have made progress: computers can now beat chess grandmasters and help prevent terrorist attacks. Yet we still await a machine that exhibits the rich complexity of human thought—one that doesn’t just crunch numbers, or take us to a relevant Web page, but understands us and gives us what we need. With the creation of Watson, IBM’s Jeopardy! playing computer, we are one step closer to that goal. But how did we get here? In Final Jeopardy, Stephen Baker traces the arc of Watson’s “life,” from its birth in the IBM labs to its big night on the podium. We meet Hollywood moguls and Jeopardy! masters, genius computer programmers and ambitious scientists, including Watson’s eccentric creator, David Ferrucci. We see how a new generation of Watsons could transform medicine, the law, marketing, even science itself, as machines process huge amounts of data at lightning speed, answer our questions, and possibly come up with new hypotheses. As fast and fun as the game itself, Final Jeopardy shows how smart machines will fit into our world—and how they’ll disrupt it. “Like Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine, Baker’s book finds us at the dawn of a singularity. It’s an excellent case study, and does good double duty as a Philip K. Dick scenario, too.”—Kirkus Reviews “Baker’s narrative is both charming and terrifying . . . an entertaining romp through the field of artificial intelligence—and a sobering glimpse of things to come.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

30 review for Final Jeopardy: The Story of Watson, the Computer That Will Transform Our World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Marvin

    This book was a selection for my philosophy book group. After reading it, I can only ask "why?" But as retired computer professor Dr. Geek I welcomed this book. I watched the TV show where Watson - the IBM-built computer - played against the two excellent humans from the Jeopardy TV show. I had hoped that the book would discuss something about the inner workings of what made Watson "tick." But this was not a book that told that story. It was really the human drama that followed three groups of in This book was a selection for my philosophy book group. After reading it, I can only ask "why?" But as retired computer professor Dr. Geek I welcomed this book. I watched the TV show where Watson - the IBM-built computer - played against the two excellent humans from the Jeopardy TV show. I had hoped that the book would discuss something about the inner workings of what made Watson "tick." But this was not a book that told that story. It was really the human drama that followed three groups of individuals and their interactions - the group of computer professionals at IBM Yorktown and Hawthorne Labs who built and programmed Watson who wanted a follow-on to their earlier Deep Blue that beat the world master in Chess years earlier without losing in a way that hurt IBM's image, the producers of the Jeopardy TV show who saw this challenge as a way to attract an audience and their primary goal was to produce good TV drama, and various Jeopardy winners who had to battle against this machine challenger. For me the most important point of the book was the repeated statement by the author that Watson in no way represents an artificial intelligence solution to the problem. Its search algorithm is based upon one similar to that used by Google in choosing answers that used many of the same or similar words as in the Jeopardy clues, along with a few new algorithms to help in deciphering the intent of the question. One weakness in the book is that the author wrote this from the perspective of IBM. I don't know how much Baker knows about computer science or artificial intelligence, but most of the book is firmly from the perspective of IBM. While IBM certainly is important in this story and has done fundamental research in solving many of the problems required to build Watson, other groups of people outside of IBM had a profound influence on what eventually became Watson. The story of the development of the PC was weak, and the influence of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Apple's role in the Apple II, ubiquitous computing, the semantic web, and others were all relevant to solving this AI problem and were developed by non-IBM entities. However, in summary, I enjoyed reading this book, but as I said above, it had very little to do with my book group's original purpose as a book on philosophy. (If it really did discuss AI it would have been more relevant).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Autumn

    Final Jeopardy is the story of IBM's Watson computer showdown with Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! I enjoyed this immensely because it was a unique blend of science, entertainment, and business. It touched on a number of subjects that I personally find very interesting: software, AI, branding, anthropology, linguistics, psychology, and trivia games, just to start. I will admit that when I first heard that a computer had beat humans at Jeopardy, I was thoroughly unimpressed by the news g Final Jeopardy is the story of IBM's Watson computer showdown with Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy! I enjoyed this immensely because it was a unique blend of science, entertainment, and business. It touched on a number of subjects that I personally find very interesting: software, AI, branding, anthropology, linguistics, psychology, and trivia games, just to start. I will admit that when I first heard that a computer had beat humans at Jeopardy, I was thoroughly unimpressed by the news given how easy it is to find answers by internet searches. Baker did a great job of explaining all of the hurdles that the IBM team had to overcome to enable Watson to compete successfully against humans. Baker also did a decent job of building suspense even though I knew the final result. I enjoyed Final Jeopardy so much that I intend to purchase a print copy of the book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cade

    Watson is interesting. This book is less so. I don't necessarily regret reading it, but it was disappointing. There are two main problems with this book. One problem is that the author is a bought-and-paid-for lap dog of IBM. They brought him in and gave him "behind-the-scenes" access in order to drum up publicity. I don't know whether or not the author made any specific promises to IBM about content or editorial discretion, but he doesn't really bother trying to be neutral or independent. He ass Watson is interesting. This book is less so. I don't necessarily regret reading it, but it was disappointing. There are two main problems with this book. One problem is that the author is a bought-and-paid-for lap dog of IBM. They brought him in and gave him "behind-the-scenes" access in order to drum up publicity. I don't know whether or not the author made any specific promises to IBM about content or editorial discretion, but he doesn't really bother trying to be neutral or independent. He assumes if you are reading this book, you think Watson is neat, and he does too. This doesn't go so far as to make the content sycophantic or anything, but it is flattering enough that I want to roll my eyes every once in a while. The other problem is that this book doesn't really say how Watson works. It seems the author was aiming this book to the lowest common denominator and thus felt allergic to anything technical, choosing instead to turn this into a human interest story about the people who built Watson. Related to the last point, the author notes that this was precisely what IBM deliberately chose to focus on for publicity surrounding Watson. I however, wanted to know more about how Watson works and so was disappointed. The book How Smart Machines Think did a much better job of explaining (still for non-specialists) how Watson actually interprets the clues and chooses the responses.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wulan Suci Maria

    A story about how group of IBM researchers develop a machine (name Watson) or computer system that is able to answer every questions (very knowledgeable) and win quiz (Jeopardy). Quite slow story book, but okay to add knowledge that the robot development is real. Somewhere, some people are working on the next level of robot, that is not only able to answer questions, but also able to come up with theory post learning things and even smarter than human brain. This book was published 7 years ago, A story about how group of IBM researchers develop a machine (name Watson) or computer system that is able to answer every questions (very knowledgeable) and win quiz (Jeopardy). Quite slow story book, but okay to add knowledge that the robot development is real. Somewhere, some people are working on the next level of robot, that is not only able to answer questions, but also able to come up with theory post learning things and even smarter than human brain. This book was published 7 years ago, with story of computer that already has high smartness level, imagine how smart this machine now. Isn’t it scary? In another note, I always know I don’t like fiction or story book, but I took risk to read this book. All because of its interesting title, which I thought the whole story will be as interesting. But reading a book that is not my type, helps me to understand my self better. Also makes me even more realize that rating/ judgement that ones give to something (book, movie, people) really depend on their own perspective and interest. Reading a book that I don’t like make me realize that it is very hard to push myself to finish until end when I already know (or create strong perception in my mind) that I don’t like it. Anyhow, at least I learn those things, and try to be very positive about the book. It is me who don’t like the subject, not the book that is very boring.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    It’s more than five years since a computer called Watson beat two quiz champs on Jeopardy, the American TV game show. The achievement of that day, witnessed by millions, seems, if anything, more interesting today as developments in artificial intelligence have moved centre-stage. The spectre of middle-class jobs lost to AI has become part of conventional wisdom. As people spend more and more time exchanging data with distant computer servers, knowing little about what happens between their keyst It’s more than five years since a computer called Watson beat two quiz champs on Jeopardy, the American TV game show. The achievement of that day, witnessed by millions, seems, if anything, more interesting today as developments in artificial intelligence have moved centre-stage. The spectre of middle-class jobs lost to AI has become part of conventional wisdom. As people spend more and more time exchanging data with distant computer servers, knowing little about what happens between their keystrokes and the results they study onscreen, the systems which control information, whether classified as AI or not, are ever more sophisticated and central to our lives. The Watson experiment on Jeopardy was both a triumph of scientific and technological research and a kind of homage to the great tradition of computers in the States. Watson was built by IBM’s research team and named after the company founder. Thomas J. Watson and his son, between them, turned the company from a cash register business in Chicago to the epitome of corporate modernity, selling mainframe computers to customers who first had to learn what a computer was. On a shorter timescale, Watson was the follow-up to another IBM triumph, when its computer Big Blue beat world chess champ Gary Kasparov in 1997. That was an extraordinary feat, but at least chess is a game with a limited number of possible moves – albeit a very large number. But how could they make a machine that could deal with the natural language used in Jeopardy questions? Especially since the tradition of Jeopardy was to ask witty, punning questions, a bit like crossword clues? To make it more difficult, as a result of the game show scandals of the 1950s, where popular contestants were given the answers to keep them on shows and improve ratings, Jeopardy had been designed to prevent such a possibility by giving the contestant ‘the answer’, and requiring them to formulate the right question. So that was the challenge IBM’s research team took on, less than four years before the show in which their computer won. It was partly a question of speed: even if Watson knew the answer, it had to be able to produce it before the human champions that were its opponents. These winners dealt in split seconds, hitting the buzzer often, apparently, before their conscious minds had an answer. As one put it “you find your thumb pressing the buzzer while the brain races to catch up.” An early version of the computer was so slow that the programmers would ask it a question and then go to lunch, hoping it might have produced something (usually the wrong answer) by the time they returned. Stephen Baker, an experienced business and technology journalist, was given privileged access to IBM’s team as they tackled their audacious challenge. The result is a technology thriller, with no shortage of intriguing characters, incidents and, well, jeopardy. The story brings together the East coast world of IBM, and the West coast world of network television – another venerable US institution harking back to the innocent days when home entertainment meant sitting as a family, choosing between the three networks and maybe a local station. Network television, as much as IBM, was on a difficult journey to adapt to the modern world – a world in which TV was one of many choices of screen entertainment beckoning from a variety of devices. To lose Jeopardy’s academic fustiness, its producer Harry Friedman had broadened its agenda. Now, as well as the traditional, fact-based questions, there were many that required a knowledge of pop culture or just ordinary life. When weaved into tricky ‘answers’ by the show’s writers, they made Watson’s life harder. How could a computer possibly get this right? Answer (question): “Here are the rules: if the soda container stops rotating and faces you, it’s time to pucker up.” Question (answer): “What is Spin the Bottle?” Baker’s account gives enough detail to appreciate at least the principles with which the IBM team approached their challenge. For instance, they broke it down into sub-tasks: understanding the question, assembling a massive library of information, creating a list of candidate answers and assigning a level of confidence to each. The latter because a Jeopardy contestant is also required to gamble money on its chance of getting an answer right, and must even take a view on how its opponent will bet. The story raises the question of how intelligent machines should be presented to human beings. What sort of ‘character’ should Watson be given? After thinking about tones of voice, visual representation and physical form, the team decided to create a screen into Watson’s brain: activity in the computer would produce a display that would show Watson ‘thinking’. But there would be no attempt to turn the computer into humanoid form, as that might encourage fears of computers taking people’s jobs. It would have a calm male voice and wouldn’t attempt to mimic emotion – triumph, frustration or disappointment. That might produce an unintentionally comic effect. Instead, Watson would remain “relentlessly upbeat”, whatever was going on in the game. As well as giving IBM some good publicity – and risking the opposite if it had failed – the Watson project had serious business potential. Not only could a Watson-related machine master huge libraries of information, it could also analyse all the online information being produced every second. As Baker puts it: “A new generation of computers can understand ordinary English, hunt down answers in vast archives of documents, analyse them, and come up with hypotheses. This has the potential to turn entire industries on their heads.” Medicine might be one of the first fields to benefit, but it won’t just be the limitations of technology that determines how it goes; it will also be human foibles, especially pride. As one doctor put it: “Doctors like the idea of having information available. Where things get more psychologically fraught is when a damned machine tells them what to do.”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ben Hoh

    An excellent look in to the creation of Watson, the Jeopardy! champion computer. The books chronicles the creation of Watson, the challenges of creating such a computer, the challenges of playing Jeopardy!, and how ultimately Watson went from a dream to a champion. An great look in to AI and machine learning at a level perfect for the type of person who likes Jeopardy! Also a look at why IBM would take on such a challenge and what the future of such computers might be. I'm sure the technology is An excellent look in to the creation of Watson, the Jeopardy! champion computer. The books chronicles the creation of Watson, the challenges of creating such a computer, the challenges of playing Jeopardy!, and how ultimately Watson went from a dream to a champion. An great look in to AI and machine learning at a level perfect for the type of person who likes Jeopardy! Also a look at why IBM would take on such a challenge and what the future of such computers might be. I'm sure the technology is already a bit dated, but interesting nonetheless. Also some interesting Jeopardy! history with insight from Alex Trebek, Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and Rodger Craig. If you are a technically minded Jeopardy! fan this is definitely for you. If you're just a casual Jeopardy! fan, don't let the computer stuff scare you away from reading this though, it's written at a level anyone can understand.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scarlett Sims

    My last book for the Read Harder Challenge, just under the wire. Baker details the team of experts that designed IBM's Watson computer and how they managed to take it from being an easily-beatable below-average player to a supercomputer capable of beating two of Jeopardy!'s most storied champions. The most interesting parts to me were finding out what Watson's weaknesses were: clues with puns or odd constructions, mostly. I also liked that it made it clear Watson wasn't an intelligence. It was a My last book for the Read Harder Challenge, just under the wire. Baker details the team of experts that designed IBM's Watson computer and how they managed to take it from being an easily-beatable below-average player to a supercomputer capable of beating two of Jeopardy!'s most storied champions. The most interesting parts to me were finding out what Watson's weaknesses were: clues with puns or odd constructions, mostly. I also liked that it made it clear Watson wasn't an intelligence. It was a machine programmed to do a specific task pretty well. There were a few examples of ways this could be modified to perform other tasks. Basically, Watson was a machine engineered to be good at Jeopardy!, not an intelligence in and of itself.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vicky

    This book was interesting. It definitely gave more insight about Watson's weaknesses and some of the unfairness that viewers of the special would not have realized. However, because of this, I also feel like it offered some hope for people who are scared of AI advances and Skynet realities. However, I also found the overall writing relatively dry and forgettable. This book was interesting. It definitely gave more insight about Watson's weaknesses and some of the unfairness that viewers of the special would not have realized. However, because of this, I also feel like it offered some hope for people who are scared of AI advances and Skynet realities. However, I also found the overall writing relatively dry and forgettable.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Webajeb

    One of the most fascinating books I've ever read. One of the most fascinating books I've ever read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Liu

    This was a fun, easy to read and enjoyable book about Watson. Great story, and well written.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Fackler

    A great example of the statistical nature of attrition. There's also some cool stuff about humans, computers, and various other Earth-related things. A great example of the statistical nature of attrition. There's also some cool stuff about humans, computers, and various other Earth-related things.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A few months ago, I watched the first man-machine Jeopardy match, between Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and IBM's brainchild Watson. So when I discovered this book by Stephen Baker at my library, purporting to describe the development of Watson from idea to reality, I figured I'd pick it up and see how Watson came to beat two of the greatest Jeopardy champions ever. Baker charts Watson from mere suggestion -- back around 2006 -- to the final version that played on the show. The perspective is mostly A few months ago, I watched the first man-machine Jeopardy match, between Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter, and IBM's brainchild Watson. So when I discovered this book by Stephen Baker at my library, purporting to describe the development of Watson from idea to reality, I figured I'd pick it up and see how Watson came to beat two of the greatest Jeopardy champions ever. Baker charts Watson from mere suggestion -- back around 2006 -- to the final version that played on the show. The perspective is mostly that of David Ferrucci and his team at IBM, the group that turned Watson from the long-shot idea that could never work into reality. Through it all, he charts the tension, frustration, excitement, and inspiration as the project progressed. For a book all about a machine, Baker lends the narrative a very human feel. While Final Jeopardy is about Watson, it's equally about the people who brought him to "life." Final Jeopardy is also about the larger questions surrounding Watson: what's the current state of artificial intelligence and question-answering programs, and where can we expect it to lead over the next decade or two? Watson can answer natural-language questions (even tricky syntactical ones like Jeopardy clues), but even Ferrucci will claim that the machine is stupid. It doesn't know what its responses mean, not like a human being would know. It doesn't generate ideas or create connections. Some computer scientists believe that this is the correct course to pursue in AI, while others argue that we should be striving towards a more human-like intelligence for our machines. The ultimate question, of course, is what do we do with Watson now that its Jeopardy match is over. What will IBM use this technology for, and will others (like Google) supplant it from an entirely different direction? Obviously, the ability to survey vast streams of natural language and come up with plausible answers could be a windfall in many professions: medicine, law, science, and all fields where knowing expands more quickly than any one person can keep track of. But whether question-answer programs like Watson creep into our lives in the near future remains to be seen. I'll admit that this book isn't for everyone. It's well-written and Baker ensures that even difficult concepts are easy to understand. But if you're not interested in AI or the Watson computer, you're probably not going to get any thrills from Final Jeopardy. That said, if AI and the future of computing do interest you, I recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Seth Heasley

    I love trivia games, to the point that I've been accused of having a trivial mind. I love having one-on-one Trivial Pursuit matches against my dad, and generally losing. And of course, I love playing along with Jeopardy! at home. If I could avoid getting penalized for all the wrong answers I blurt out and the buzzer wasn't an issue, I could totally take those people. Yeah, right. (I'm a fair hand at Wheel of Fortune, too.) [ Interestingly, Ken Jennings (of the 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy!) I love trivia games, to the point that I've been accused of having a trivial mind. I love having one-on-one Trivial Pursuit matches against my dad, and generally losing. And of course, I love playing along with Jeopardy! at home. If I could avoid getting penalized for all the wrong answers I blurt out and the buzzer wasn't an issue, I could totally take those people. Yeah, right. (I'm a fair hand at Wheel of Fortune, too.) [ Interestingly, Ken Jennings (of the 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy!) subtitles his blog "Confessions of a Trivial Mind." So I'm not sure my paltry trivia-bufferiness rises to the level of "trivial." ] When I became aware of an impending match between Jennings, fellow big-winner Brad Rutter, and a computer called Watson (from IBM), I was pretty jazzed about it. Having seen the match and now having read Stephen Baker's Final Jeopardy: Man Vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, I'm even more fascinated by the whole thing. The book gives a nice background both to Jeopardy! and IBM, and delves just a bit into the world of Artificial Intelligence, all while chronicling the concept, development, and refining of Watson from very dumb to extremely bright. And of course, the match between man and machine is retold in exciting style. (I was surprised to find myself pulling for Jennings and Rutter even though I already knew the outcome. I guess that's the mark of a good storyteller.) Full review on my blog>.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    It was interesting to read about the inter workings of the team who created one of the most practical AI systems on the planet. The interesting thing about AI is that we have to understand ourselves to use as a model, and it is this awaking that is AI's true benefit. As we evolve it, it evolves us. The real holy grail of AI is to get it to take over its own evolution, and act upon its interpretation of reality. I don't think any AI system will show us anything that we don't already know in laten It was interesting to read about the inter workings of the team who created one of the most practical AI systems on the planet. The interesting thing about AI is that we have to understand ourselves to use as a model, and it is this awaking that is AI's true benefit. As we evolve it, it evolves us. The real holy grail of AI is to get it to take over its own evolution, and act upon its interpretation of reality. I don't think any AI system will show us anything that we don't already know in latent form. All learning is really remembering called evolution. It will be a mnemonic system for reminding us of what we already knew at some point in our past. The type of system that was developed was really for information and database retrieval. I see this as the next upgrade to our current search engines. Imagine being able to find just "one" piece of information out of all the information on the internet. This will be AI's greatest inroad into the lives of the masses. The book does a good job in outlining the hurdles that had to be overcome to bring this software to the point that it could find one piece of information from terabytes of data. There will be no more just finding us hundreds of webpages to look through, now we can search for (and find single) concepts. I think the next generation of Watson will be to develop a whole society of Watsons that functions like an ant colony, the 3rd coming.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phyllis

    Somehow, I missed seeing Watson perform on Jeopardy!. Yeah, I don't know how that happened. But the whole issue of how one sets up a computer to take on the task fascinates me. (Nerd, yes. Geek, no.) Stephen Baker walks the reader through the process without using technical language so complex that no one outside of the field could follow it. I enjoyed reading the book. It's well written. Mr. Baker walks us through the whole process from off-the-cuff idea, admitting that no one is absolutely sure Somehow, I missed seeing Watson perform on Jeopardy!. Yeah, I don't know how that happened. But the whole issue of how one sets up a computer to take on the task fascinates me. (Nerd, yes. Geek, no.) Stephen Baker walks the reader through the process without using technical language so complex that no one outside of the field could follow it. I enjoyed reading the book. It's well written. Mr. Baker walks us through the whole process from off-the-cuff idea, admitting that no one is absolutely sure of the exact moment of conception, to the game show itself. In itself, that might have made a good feature-length article in a fat Sunday paper. But, above and beyond that, we see just how hard it is to do the job. How do we know what we know? Why is it that we can recognize puns and how do we teach a computer to do so? How much knowledge of a subject is too much knowledge of a subject? (For example, adding the contents of famous novels was nixed because it was felt the computer would have trouble distinguishing between fact and fiction.) This book me helped to appreciate just how very difficult computer programming can be and to remind me just how wonderfully flexible and complex the human brain is. And to note that our coming electronic overlords may not understand us very well. After all, they're only computers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    This book is about the story behind the famous Jeopardy! match between IBM Watson and two human champions and the preparation of the IBM team leading up to it. The author follows the team behind Watson and provides a detail account of the development and the training of this machine contestant that ultimately beat the two human champion on national TV. You will learn about the state the technology at the time and how team worked hard to improve the machine for the contest. There was the back and This book is about the story behind the famous Jeopardy! match between IBM Watson and two human champions and the preparation of the IBM team leading up to it. The author follows the team behind Watson and provides a detail account of the development and the training of this machine contestant that ultimately beat the two human champion on national TV. You will learn about the state the technology at the time and how team worked hard to improve the machine for the contest. There was the back and forth between the producers of Jeopardy! and the IBM team in putting together a game that is a fair competition between human and machine (is there such a thing?). This competition marks another milestone in the development of intelligent machine. The story reminds us that while the machine are in no way near becoming a truly intelligent machine, it is now in a position to quickly outperform human being in many narrow complex tasks. These are the tasks which a few years ago people would think it is impossible for a computer to achieve and out-perform a human. I expect to see more and more of such feats to appear in the coming years and the resulting discussions about what are the remaining values humans are bringing to the table.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    An interesting book, though not quite what I expected. The book is about IBM’s Watson computer, which was constructed to play on the Jeopardy TV program. In early 2011 Watson had a big match on TV with two of the best Jeopardy players, and won. I had thought that the book would be about the AI techniques used for Watson. The book did talk about the technical side of the machine, but only in a general way. Most of the book was about the human interest side of the project: some of the rules of Jeo An interesting book, though not quite what I expected. The book is about IBM’s Watson computer, which was constructed to play on the Jeopardy TV program. In early 2011 Watson had a big match on TV with two of the best Jeopardy players, and won. I had thought that the book would be about the AI techniques used for Watson. The book did talk about the technical side of the machine, but only in a general way. Most of the book was about the human interest side of the project: some of the rules of Jeopardy, stories about the contestants and the project engineers, the negotiations between IBM and the producers of Jeopardy. The TV program Wheel of Fortune is produced by the same company that produces Jeopardy. I learned that Vanna White has showcased 4000 gowns during her career on Wheel – which shows how far afield the book wanders. I ended up being very impressed by IBM’s effort. Watson has over 2000 processors, and has a natural language understanding that is phenomenal. It can still make goofy mistakes, but its ability is still amazing.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Gary Lang

    The book tells the story well. It shows how early we are in terms of creating truly intelligent computing systems, and how far we've come in automating narrow forms of human intelligence which can take nearly infinite computing power. But, we have nearly infinite computing power, so there are task-focused domains that require intelligence we can tackle with computing today. The dance between the producers of Jeopardy and IBM to make sure that each of them were presented correctly owed a lot to t The book tells the story well. It shows how early we are in terms of creating truly intelligent computing systems, and how far we've come in automating narrow forms of human intelligence which can take nearly infinite computing power. But, we have nearly infinite computing power, so there are task-focused domains that require intelligence we can tackle with computing today. The dance between the producers of Jeopardy and IBM to make sure that each of them were presented correctly owed a lot to the impedance mismatch of each others’ expectations. The Jeopardy team wanted to protect their franchise by any potential image damage owing to machines having an unfair advantage. And yet the IBM people wanted to make sure that the machine’s ability to win didn’t suffer owing to unusual protections disrupting the format of the game. This back and forth, and the human compromise that solved the problem – for now - was more interesting than anything else in the book. All of this enables some pretty severe disruptions in the labor market. That's what I want to read about next.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    When I heard there was going to be a match between a computer built to play Jeopardy and famous Jeopardy winners, I was instantly intrigued. Outside of checking my DVR was set to auto-record, I starte to wonder the science behind it. Was it just hooked up to a search engine? How was it going to handle the answers that are word play? Is it going to understand English? This book answers those questions and more! I was highly interested during most of the book. It was not too heavy on technical det When I heard there was going to be a match between a computer built to play Jeopardy and famous Jeopardy winners, I was instantly intrigued. Outside of checking my DVR was set to auto-record, I starte to wonder the science behind it. Was it just hooked up to a search engine? How was it going to handle the answers that are word play? Is it going to understand English? This book answers those questions and more! I was highly interested during most of the book. It was not too heavy on technical detail but not too light either. It was a wonderful balance. It delves not only into technology but the science of language and also human computer interaction. I cannot recommend this enough! Why four stars? Well I haven't finished yet since the last chapter is not out until after the match :) Read a more detailed review over at The Broke and the Bookish

  20. 5 out of 5

    Usha

    Another fascinating read - a journey from the conceptual, through the execution to deliverance. More so was how as Watson evolved, so did the philosophical/moral/ethical questions of accepting a machine in the human dominated world of cognition and knowledge(in the real sense of the word) Even after watching the man vs. machine showdown live on TV and rewatching it on Youtube, reading the final chapter showed the actual workings of the mind behind the scenes. Kudos to Jennings and Rutter for taki Another fascinating read - a journey from the conceptual, through the execution to deliverance. More so was how as Watson evolved, so did the philosophical/moral/ethical questions of accepting a machine in the human dominated world of cognition and knowledge(in the real sense of the word) Even after watching the man vs. machine showdown live on TV and rewatching it on Youtube, reading the final chapter showed the actual workings of the mind behind the scenes. Kudos to Jennings and Rutter for taking it all in stride, although at times Rutter seemed to be mean to Watson. Ah, that brings out how easily we identify a machine with its anthropomorphic alter ego, or force one upon it and make it more personable. At the end of 4yrs of work though, Watson is still not more than a highly sophisticated search engine like Google. For Watson to actually develop the capacity to 'understand' and 'make sense' still seems a long way.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lilly

    This book was fascinating in illustrating how complex and intricate it can be to create artificial intelligence. All the nuances of the human language, the meanings behind inflections, the things we take for granted are things that computers will never be able to understand. The seemingly simple concept of a machine playing jeopardy became not only an epic under taking, but showed the amazing amount of human ingenuity that goes behind every great "machine". My problems with this book were small, This book was fascinating in illustrating how complex and intricate it can be to create artificial intelligence. All the nuances of the human language, the meanings behind inflections, the things we take for granted are things that computers will never be able to understand. The seemingly simple concept of a machine playing jeopardy became not only an epic under taking, but showed the amazing amount of human ingenuity that goes behind every great "machine". My problems with this book were small, Baker was far too "wordy" at times, illustrating examples to the point of redundancy. There were chunks of chapters that became quite dry and a slow read because of the computer jargon as well as explanations behind everything. The actual story of Watson was fascinating and the enormous group effort going on behind the scenes. It will be interesting to find out how Watson will actually get a "job" so to speak and what uses IBM will find for "him".

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emmeline Joy

    Not a bad book. IBM built a computer that mastered the game of Jeopardy, including accessing trivia and using strategy in order to win. I feel the book missed out a bit, as the author skipped a lot of the technical details. It would have been over my head probably, but still interesting to me to see the technical importance of creating a computer than can play Jeopardy. I think the author knew if he made it too tech-oriented he would lose a large chunk of his audience, so he erred on caution and Not a bad book. IBM built a computer that mastered the game of Jeopardy, including accessing trivia and using strategy in order to win. I feel the book missed out a bit, as the author skipped a lot of the technical details. It would have been over my head probably, but still interesting to me to see the technical importance of creating a computer than can play Jeopardy. I think the author knew if he made it too tech-oriented he would lose a large chunk of his audience, so he erred on caution and made it an anecdotal light story. It is interesting to see proof of how quickly computers are evolving. Watson (the computer) kicks butt at Jeopardy, and I love that humans are capable of creating it. We are able to do more and more with technology, and it's exciting to think about how to practically apply a computer with Watson's intelligence in our lives. Of course, I read science fiction and watch Star Trek, so it's not hard to see why I would get excited about these things...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mysteryfan

    I read "Final Jeopardy: Man vs Machine and the Quest to Know Everything" by Stephen Baker. Researchers at IBM spent years and over a billion dollars developing a machine that could compete on Jeopardy!. It was interesting reading how they analyzed the questions so they could teach the machine to recognize puns and irony and even how to use the buzzer. Ultimately the project was pointless. They had to find ways to repurpose the machine after the contest was over. I hope the algorithms were useful I read "Final Jeopardy: Man vs Machine and the Quest to Know Everything" by Stephen Baker. Researchers at IBM spent years and over a billion dollars developing a machine that could compete on Jeopardy!. It was interesting reading how they analyzed the questions so they could teach the machine to recognize puns and irony and even how to use the buzzer. Ultimately the project was pointless. They had to find ways to repurpose the machine after the contest was over. I hope the algorithms were useful in writing other software. Otherwise it was one of the most expensive PR stunts in history. The book was good though. There are a lot of scientific studies out there based on Jeopardy!. Gaming theory, sex discrimination, all sorts. If you go on Google Scholar, they are easy to find. Our brains automatically make connections that the machine has to be taught to make. I learned a lot about how I process information. And how could I resist the title? I do need to know everything :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    spurred to read by Adam Gopnik's april 4 NY article re Turing humanness tests, best is how well computer interrupts, gets distracted, rely on "uh's" and "ah's". Reagan's "well" = Capraesque cheer Obama's "Look" = Spockian certitude Noah/Moses illusion Jennings' use of flash cards 194 Watson gives confidence-rated "hypotheses", not "answers". 202 SAS goal: make systs run 1000X or 1MX faster, enabling them to look at 1M more input 208 How search engines think 209 captchas are drawn from old books---by comp spurred to read by Adam Gopnik's april 4 NY article re Turing humanness tests, best is how well computer interrupts, gets distracted, rely on "uh's" and "ah's". Reagan's "well" = Capraesque cheer Obama's "Look" = Spockian certitude Noah/Moses illusion Jennings' use of flash cards 194 Watson gives confidence-rated "hypotheses", not "answers". 202 SAS goal: make systs run 1000X or 1MX faster, enabling them to look at 1M more input 208 How search engines think 209 captchas are drawn from old books---by completing them, humans are helping, word by crooked word, to digitize world literature, making it accessible to computers 213 roger craig...1-day record, $77k. Programmed training in Perlscript also, ANKI, on-line flash cards Book's fast time to market. The IBM Watson Jeopardy show was in february. Got the hardback book in april, and it had a chapter on the contest.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    After being enraptured by the entire Watson-on-Jeopardy affair, it was SO satisfying to read in full all the nitty-gritty details of everything involved. The book capably gives little histories of the players and technologies involved and makes the final showdown quite exciting. Much of the technical detail of Watson's intelligence is left off the table (perhaps too boring for the average reader), and I still contend that Watson wasn't smart enough. It's beyond me that "he" couldn't decipher cat After being enraptured by the entire Watson-on-Jeopardy affair, it was SO satisfying to read in full all the nitty-gritty details of everything involved. The book capably gives little histories of the players and technologies involved and makes the final showdown quite exciting. Much of the technical detail of Watson's intelligence is left off the table (perhaps too boring for the average reader), and I still contend that Watson wasn't smart enough. It's beyond me that "he" couldn't decipher categories to determine what's wanted from "him," especially with with one-word questions that take the machine too long to process in comparison with humans. Watson got lucky. Jennings would have destroyed had he gotten the Daily Double he wanted. Fun book, but I've got to find reading on the technical details.

  26. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is the story about how 25 computer PhDs employed by Big Blue (IBM) took on the challenge to compete with TV Jeopardy winners. It wasn’t an easy job. They had to design a computer that would listen and speak like a human. Flash-speed was also necessary as well as ability to recognize language subtleties such as slang, puns, and strangely phrased clues. Yet after four years the IBM collective minds met the challenge and their computer (named Watson) bested Jeopardy champions and made only few This is the story about how 25 computer PhDs employed by Big Blue (IBM) took on the challenge to compete with TV Jeopardy winners. It wasn’t an easy job. They had to design a computer that would listen and speak like a human. Flash-speed was also necessary as well as ability to recognize language subtleties such as slang, puns, and strangely phrased clues. Yet after four years the IBM collective minds met the challenge and their computer (named Watson) bested Jeopardy champions and made only few gaffes. IBM's next challenge: find a market for the machine’s massive capabilities and technologies. Medicine and law look promising.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    Enjoyably written story of Watson, the program that defeated the human Jeopardy champions and the IBM team that created him/it. I was disappointed that it was very light on the subjects of how Watson operated and how human and machine intelligences differ or are similar. I was VERY surprised and unimpressed by the book's documentation. There is no index, and many of the sources are not documented, e.g., on page 162 there is a long quote from Samuel Butler. Baker does not tell which of Butler's wo Enjoyably written story of Watson, the program that defeated the human Jeopardy champions and the IBM team that created him/it. I was disappointed that it was very light on the subjects of how Watson operated and how human and machine intelligences differ or are similar. I was VERY surprised and unimpressed by the book's documentation. There is no index, and many of the sources are not documented, e.g., on page 162 there is a long quote from Samuel Butler. Baker does not tell which of Butler's works it is from; there is no note about the reference; and Butler is not listed in the Sources and Further Reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Madison

    Overall this book is interesting. Not only is this a story telling the birth of Watson but it also considers other areas such as IBM, AI, Jeopardy, game strategy, and human reasoning. It shows how all of these played a part in "who" Watson became. The story is told well, which makes it both engaging and educational. That being said, Stephan Baker didn't analyse all of these subjects exhaustively. It's a book that covers a lot of interesting information giving just the right amount of detail for Overall this book is interesting. Not only is this a story telling the birth of Watson but it also considers other areas such as IBM, AI, Jeopardy, game strategy, and human reasoning. It shows how all of these played a part in "who" Watson became. The story is told well, which makes it both engaging and educational. That being said, Stephan Baker didn't analyse all of these subjects exhaustively. It's a book that covers a lot of interesting information giving just the right amount of detail for someone who is curious about the subject. But, I would not recommend this to someone who wants more than a casual read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    khrome

    A pretty complete account of all aspects surrounding this historic match. Mainly a human interest story, it lacked what I was looking for - more detailed descriptions of the algorithms that were used. I would not recommend it if you are looking to read more about the technical aspects of Watson but it's still very interesting. UPDATE 5/27/2012 This presentation by Dr. David Ferrucci, where he talks about programming Watson, is a nice supplement to this book http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHk_8K... A pretty complete account of all aspects surrounding this historic match. Mainly a human interest story, it lacked what I was looking for - more detailed descriptions of the algorithms that were used. I would not recommend it if you are looking to read more about the technical aspects of Watson but it's still very interesting. UPDATE 5/27/2012 This presentation by Dr. David Ferrucci, where he talks about programming Watson, is a nice supplement to this book http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHk_8K...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I read this book for one of my book clubs and found it to be a very interesting story. It covers how the idea for Watson came into being, the challenges that came with designing the computer, and how they were able to pull of the Jeopardy match. I had no idea how hard it was for IBM to even convince Jeopardy to go along with this venture, and all the requirements that were placed on them to make it work. The author managed to bring the appropriate amount of tension to a story that everyone readi I read this book for one of my book clubs and found it to be a very interesting story. It covers how the idea for Watson came into being, the challenges that came with designing the computer, and how they were able to pull of the Jeopardy match. I had no idea how hard it was for IBM to even convince Jeopardy to go along with this venture, and all the requirements that were placed on them to make it work. The author managed to bring the appropriate amount of tension to a story that everyone reading probably knows the outcome to. It's a well written behind the scenes tale.

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