IBM Watson Supercomputer Learns to Curse, Resulting in Memory Wipe
January 12th, 2013
We haven’t heard much out of IBM and its impressive Watson supercomputer in a while. Watson is the supercomputer that IBM fielded as a contestant on Jeopardy back in 2011. Despite the fact that Watson was able to perform impressively well on the game show, it’s still been unable to pass the Turing test designed to determine if a computer can think for itself.
The Turing test says that a computer capable of carrying on a natural conversation without giving itself away can be considered intelligent. The problem for Watson is that human language has a lot of subtlety and is packed with slang. IBM research scientist Eric Brown decided to help Watson learn human slang by setting the machine free to ingest content from Urban Dictionary. You can see the beginnings of a problem about now.
As instructed, Watson gobbled up all of the material on Urban Dictionary. However, the supercomputer was unable to tell the difference between acceptable language and curses. According to the IBM scientists, Watson even use the word “bullshit” in response to a question posed to him by researcher. Apparently, the IBM researchers tried a filter to stop Watson from cursing but were ultimately forced to wipe all the content from Urban Dictionary from the supercomputers memory. I think they should have left it alone. I find the idea of a multi-million-dollar supercomputer cursing at scientists undeniably entertaining.