Elementary

IT IS a nice coincidence that IBM’s greatest boss and Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick shared a surname. But whether it was Thomas J. or Dr John H. who inspired the name of the firm’s latest venture into artificial intelligence (AI), the association of that name with a touch of genius makes “Watson” a clever choice. This sense of cleverness was reinforced in 2011, when Watson won a specially staged version of an American TV quiz show called “Jeopardy!” The system’s capacity to parse questions posed to it in the show’s convoluted, pun-ridden English, to search huge natural-language databases for clues, to synthesise those clues into answers and to frame those answers in a conversational way was able to beat to the draw the finest minds of American quizdom. Winning game-show prizes,…


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