Language News: Scientific American on IBM’s Watson

IBM had quite a coup this week on Jeopardy when “Watson,” a computer showing considerable strides in the journey towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) beat out two previous champions.  Read about it here, or look for information on the Turing Award and other AI quests on the net.  Notice as you read all of the interviews with the IBM programers that they keep referring to the “trickiness” of human language.  This is a great opportunity to discuss ambiguity, metaphor, and even grammar patterns with your students. How does a computer learn to deal with all of these tricks that human children master so easily?

Observations: Paging Dr. Watson: IBM to apply Jeopardy! victor’s analytic skills to medical diagnoses.

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About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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