We already knew Ken Jennings thought IBM’s Jeopardy-winning supercomputer was a jerk, but he’s not alone. Developers at IBM were forced to wipe part of Watson’s memory once they realised their hyperintelligent computer had turned into a bit of a smartass.
During development, Watson’s project head had what must have seemed like a brilliant idea. If Watson’s going to spend most of his time interacting with humans, he was going to need to understand common human slang. And where do you go to figure out the hip new words of today’s youth? Urban Dictionary, of course.
Unfortunately for Watson’s progenitors, they seem to have overlooked the fact that 75% of Urban Dictionary contains absurd, profane, and physiologically impossible turns of phrase that could make Jeffrey Dahmer blush. Watson, being the knowledge fiend he is, of course loved the way his colourful vocabulary enabled him to describe the world around him (i.e. in terms of sex, defecation and blasphemy as a whole). According to Fortune’s Michal Lev-Ram:
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.
Proving there is such a thing as too much knowledge, the team was ultimately forced to erase Urban Dictionary from Watson’s memory. Somewhere out there, Ken Jennings is smiling triumphantly to himself as Jeopardy reruns blare in the background. [The Atlantic]