Life
by Andy Moore on January 10, 2013

Evidence for this today comes from IBM and its artifically intelligent machine, Watson. The story goes like this: Back when Watson was in development, its researchers responsible for programming its language wanted to make sure it knew how to understand some of the stranger, less formal things humans say each day. So, they made Watson memorize the entire Urban Dictionary. Yes, the same website you went on to find out in eighth grade to find out what a rusty trombone is.

There was one problem. Watson ended up not using the informal language, and instead just picked up the curse words and insults. He even answered one of the researcher's questions by calling it “bullshit,” which is the best thing I've read all week.

From Fortune:

Case in point: Two years ago, Brown attempted to teach Watson the Urban Dictionary. The popular website contains definitions for terms ranging from Internet abbreviations like OMG, short for “Oh, my God,” to slang such as “hot mess.”

But Watson couldn't distinguish between polite language and profanity — which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bullshit” in an answer to a researcher's query.

Ultimately, Brown's 35-person team developed a filter to keep Watson from swearing and scraped the Urban Dictionary from its memory. But the trial proves just how thorny it will be to get artificial intelligence to communicate naturally. Brown is now training Watson as a diagnostic tool for hospitals. No knowledge of OMG required.

 

It's really unfortunate that they fixed that before he went on “Jeopardy.” But if there is a silver lining, it's this: One day you can have your very own cursing robot like Bender. And think of the hijinx that will ensue.

[H/T: Atlantic]

Andy Moore

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