IBM’s Watson Goes Blue

According to the Urban Dictionary, a definition of “Blue” is:  Material, used by a stand-up comedian, that is considered crude or obscene.

Watson Goes Blue

This isn’t some sort of Isaac Aismov “Robot Dreams” story, where a robot, or any other form artificial intelligence assumes control of something that it shouldn’t, or was never intended to control. Oh, no, no, this is nothing that dire at all.  It is actually a more funny story than that.  It is the story of IBM, and its amazing quiz show winning, artificial intelligence computer, called Watson.

For those who are not familiar with who/what Watson is, he/it is the direct descendant of IBM’s chess winning super computer, “Deep Blue,” though Watson is far more advanced in that it can understand questions asked of it verbally, and then answer said questions in natural language too.  It is so good at it, that it crushed two of the most successful contestants EVER on the quiz show Jeopardy over a three day tournament.  Basically Watson is one of the closest things we have to an actual “thinking” computer.

Now for the funny part.  In an effort to enable Watson to understand more aspects of the English language, the programmers fed Watson the Urban Dictionary, in its entirety.  The reason for this is because in everyday speaking most of us mere humans will throw a little slang in our speech, and the Watson programmers wanted Watson to be able to understand all aspects of English language, and then respond as naturally as a human would.  Makes sense right?  Well, just like when a child that learns a funny/dirty slang word that a parent would object to that child using, Watson took its new found Urban Dictionary learning a little too far, and could not separate when was the appropriate time to use any and all of those slang words.  In short, Watson developed a potty mouth, even using “bullshit” in response to a question.  While a parent can use any of a number of methods to reprimand their child for using naughty words, the programmers thought washing Watson’s mouth out with soap might do more damage than good, so they did what they thought best, and simply deleted the Urban Dictionary from Watson’s memory.  Insert slang response here.