10 January 2012

Making Watson a winner

A recurring point I make here is that while everyone love a breakthrough and wants “transformative research,” the reality is that most science is slow, small, increments.

So I’m pleased that someone who built the team that built the Jeopardy! winning computer Watson said this (emphasis added):

(T)he scientists would have to reject an ego-driven perspective and embrace the distributed intelligence that the project demanded. Some were still looking for that silver bullet that they might find all by themselves. But that represented the antithesis of how we would ultimately succeed. We learned to depend on a philosophy that embraced multiple tracks, each contributing relatively small increments to the success of the project. ...

In the end, the hero was the team, not any individual member or algorithm. Eventually, everyone came to appreciate that. Well into the throes of the project, one researcher commented, “Compared to the way we work now, it’s like we were standing still before.”
Hat tip to Flowing Data.

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