Urban Dictionary Teaches IBM Watson Supercomputer to Curse

The supercomputer has progressed from Jeopardy to interpersonal taunts

By on January 11th, 2013 14:27 GMT

IBM's Watson is probably the best-known supercomputer in the world, from having won Jeopardy against the top human contestant, but that wasn't enough for the IBM researchers who created him.

Having felt that Jeopardy participation built a solid enough base for understanding and interpreting sounds, voices and language, the team of scientists decided to go further.

The next step in the development of Watson's personality might come across as a bit questionable though.

In trying to teach Watson to really communicate through human speech, they have managed to teach him how to curse instead.

Eric Brown is the culprit here. He was determined to help Watson understand human slang, so it gave it access to a certain website called Urban Dictionary.

Sadly, Watson proved unable to distinguish between polite language and the not so polite, leading to a stream of sentences filled with expletives.

Definitely a setback in the test. The researchers set off to see if they could determine the capability of Watson to carry natural conversations, yet they hit this obstacle.

Brown and his researcher partners did find a preliminary solution though: a filter that would prevent Watson from swearing.

The filter isn't ready yet, but it should eventually manage to do the job, although success may come at the cost of blocking out Urban Dictionary altogether.

The men will just have to manually input the definitions for OMG, hot mess and everything else considered a central part of casual speech.

Watson has been picking up bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well, somehow, though the jumbled mess of words isn't as bad as in the former case.

Maybe next time the researchers will be careful and install filters before they set the poor infant consciousness loose on websites again. At this point, Watson won't be allowed to engage in small talk much.
IBM's Watson starts to swear
   IBM's Watson starts to swear
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