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February 18, 2011 / Omar J. Peters

Toronto… a US City?

On recent the man V. machine episodes of Jeopardy, Watson the computer answered incorrectly on the Final Jeopardy question in the U.S. Cities category.

The clue was “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.”  And the correct response is Chicago (which both human contestants got correct).

Watson’s response was “What is Toronto????” Clearly not a U.S. city, right? IBM explains why the computer made the mistake:

First, the category names on Jeopardy! are tricky. The answers often do not exactly fit the category. Watson, in his training phase,  learned that categories only weakly suggest the kind of answer that is expected, and, therefore, the machine downgrades their significance.

The way the language was parsed provided an advantage for the humans and a disadvantage for Watson, as well. “What US city” wasn’t in the question. If it had been, Watson would have given US cities much more weight as it searched for the answer.

Adding to the confusion for Watson, there are cities named Toronto in the United States and the Toronto in Canada has an American League baseball team.

Rest assured, Watson is no Skynet.


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  1. バニラ 原料 / Jun 4 2016 2:20 pm



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