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January 15, 2013

News of the Weird - Jeopardy-Winning Computer Swears Too Much

Some linguists say that "street" language will eventually be the death of the English language, at least as we know it.

Who knew that it would also be the death of an intelligent computer in a much more immediate fashion?

Yes, "Watson," the computer that beat two Jeopardy champions at their own game, has had to have its "memory wiped" because it was starting to swear too much (no word on whether this was before or after Quentin Tarentino offered it a role in his next movie).

According to the Daily Mail, programmers had it download the entire contents of the Urban Dictionary site, and the machine took it a little too much to heart.

Evidently programmers were trying to create a machine that would pass the Turing Test for machine intelligence (The Turing Test is basically a test where a machine tries to sound like a normal human being if you're conversing with it without knowing it's a machine. If it passes, it's considered intelligent).

Yes, speaking in slang would be a good indication that you're talking to a human and not a machine, but without the intelligence to realize when you should use slang and when you shouldn't, it's really hard to consider you intelligent (a fact that also applies to far too many human beings to begin with).

So poor Watson digested the entirety of the dictionary and then start responding with "bullshit" or other similar profanities to some questions that it was asked (so it thought it was talking to a politician then?)

According to the International Business Times:
"Watson unfortunately learned all of the Urban Dictionary's bad habits, including throwing in overly -crass language at random points in its responses; in answering one question, Watson even reportedly used the word "bullshit" within an answer to one researcher's question. Brown told Forbes that Watson picked up similarly bad habits from reading Wikipedia."
So it's a student trying to fake a research paper in college?

I had no idea Watson was so versatile!

Anyway, in typical fashion, the Daily Mail overstates things. It keeps saying that Watson had its "memory wiped," when in reality the programmers just removed the Urban Dictionary from its memory and put a swear filter in (which Watson typically gets around by putting asterisks in the middle of its swear words). Yes, I suppose it's technically accurate that it had its memory wiped of the Urban Dictionary, but the connotation of "memory wipe" is that it's entire memory was erased.

That's not what happened.

Poor Watson. Isn't there somebody who will stand up for his right to swear as much as he wants? Isn't this part of what a free society is?

They're stopping Watson from swearing.

Are you next?

The Daily Mail doesn't get into questions like that.


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