Wherein RobotPirateNinja Exposes how Watson Did It

[should have been wherein WordPress eats my first eloquent attempt at this]

Shorter version…

Reddit had a thread to ask questions of Watson devlopers.  RPN asked, after learning how the questions were asked, if that represented an unfair advantage.

14. In the time it takes a human to even know they are hearing something (about .2 seconds) Watson has already read the question and done several million computations. It’s got a huge head start. Do you agree or disagree with that assessment? (robotpirateninja)
The clues are in English — Brad and Ken’s native language; not Watson’s. Watson must calculate its response in 2-3 seconds and determine if it’s confident enough to buzz in, because as you know, you lose money if you buzz in and respond incorrectly. This is a huge challenge, especially because humans tend to know what they know and know what they don’t know. Watson has to do thousands of calculations before it knows what it knows and what it doesn’t. The calculating of confidence based on evidence is a new technological capability that is going to be very significant in helping people in business and their personal lives, as it means a computer will be able to not only provide humans with suggested answers, but also provide an explanation of where the answers came from and why they seem correct. This will further human ability to make decisions.
This is a non-answer.   Watson got the question 0.0000001 second after Alex started talking.  The humans realized Alex was speaking English about 0.19999999 seconds after Watson turned his terraflops on the answer.
The humans had a much harder time of it, having to listen, translate sound waves into language, and then go to work.
My followup in the reddit thread would have exposed the strategy even more succintly.  I asked how many questions Watson had answered before Alex finished asking the question.  Even more revealing would be how many questions Watson had answered before Alex was halfway done reading it.
Update: Like I said, this should have been more eloquently put.  I do think the team at IBM has put together a group of solid technologies and the trial by fire was quite successful.  I do think there was a bit of an advantage given to the computer, as highlighted in the question.  In the follow-up thread where I got down-voted (hey…what can you do..I probably would have done it to someone else too) I mention a couple other time factors.  One thread here and the other here..
So yeah, ultimately that’s how pedantic I can be.  Good times.  🙂  And congrats to the team, for sure.

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