Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM’s DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson was named after IBM’s first president, Thomas J. Watson.
In 2011, as a test of its abilities, Watson competed on the quiz show Jeopardy!, in the show’s only human-versus-machine match-up to date. In a two-game, combined-point match, broadcast in three Jeopardy! episodes February 14–16, Watson beat Brad Rutter, the biggest all-time money winner onJeopardy!, and Ken Jennings, the record holder for the longest championship streak (74 wins). Watson received the first prize of $1 million, while Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter received $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. Jennings and Rutter pledged to donate half their winnings to charity, while IBM divided Watson’s winnings between two charities.
Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia, but was not connected to the Internet during the game. For each clue, Watson’s three most probable responses were displayed on the television screen. Watson consistently outperformed its human opponents on the game’s signaling device, but had trouble responding to a few categories, notably those having short clues containing only a few words.
Since Watson’s victory on Jeopardy, he has been busy working for health care organizations by putting its natural language interpretation skills to good use. Now he is making the jump to Wall Street. With the new job at Citigroup, Watson will work primarily with risk management, helping to “analyze customer needs and process financial, economic and client data to advance and personalize digital banking.”
To get Watson ready for the job, Citigroup is training our robot overlord about regulatory practices and financial jargon. Presumably, Watson will be a little more ethical than some of the not-so-nice people on Wall Street, sticking to the facts and minimizing the shady practices. Then again, Watson can only be as ethical as its employers that program it.