IBM's Watson Supercomputer is a Potty Mouth

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News Posted: Sat, Jan 12 2013 12:56 PM

Well... I'm sure this isn't what the designers behind IBM's Watson supercomputer had in mind when it came to human interaction. As it turns out, Watson, as smart as it is, cannot tell the difference between English words that are appropriate, and then not-so-appropriate. You might immediately realize when a word is derogatory - even if you've never heard it before - but no such luck with Watson. It's a mere computer, after all.

The discovery of the issue came about when Watson took on the task of memorizing the entirety of UrbanDictionary - the online human-edited slang dictionary. If you want to know the meaning behind "iFatigue", for example, it's there (for the record, that's the result of an endless cycle of releases from Apple with minor upgrades over each). Or how about "typerventilating", the act of overwhelming a receiver with instant messages?

As humorous as many definitions on UrbanDictionary are, the site is filled to the brim with words and phrases you'd never want to hear uttered at a dinner party. You might begin to see where the problem with Watson crept up. In one example, a researcher sent a query to Watson, to which the computer responded, "BS". What a potty mouth (but perhaps the source of laughter to the researcher at the time).

The first thing I thought of when I heard that Watson had a foul mouth was its use in the medical industry. This is something we've discussed before on the site. Could you imagine Watson getting foul when you don't take your pills on time? This is just dying for a Saturday Night Live skit!

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Jan 12 2013 7:51 PM

If what I read elsewhere is correct, they ended up purging the UrbanDictionary, and adding a swear filter just in case he has other words floating about his dictionary.

Totally agree on the Saturday Night Live skit idea - that would be hilarious. I can already see Connery and Watson bonding over things they claim to have done to Trebek's mother.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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