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Surprising Science

I.B.M.’s Watson Not So Impressive

For many of the questions Watson got right on Jeopardy!, a naive Google query of the ‘’ domain returned, as the first result, the correct answer.

Watson’s ability to answer quickly and confidently, even when clues are indirect or euphemistic, has been impressive. It’s rightly hailed as one of the most impressive demonstrations yet of information retrieval and even natural-language understanding. And yet… While Jeopardy questions are challenging and wide-ranging, in highly idiomatic (even affected) English, this trivia game remains a very constrained domain. The clues are short; the answers just a few words, at most, and usually discrete named entities.


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