IBM’s Watson Has a Potty Mouth Thanks to Urban Dictionary

In an attempt to make Watson even smarter, The Urban Dictionary was added to its memory. But when Watson couldn’t differentiate the meaning of the words, there was a whole ‘lotta cursing going on.

As humans, we love to curse and we love to come up with various abbreviations for words. Who hasn’t dropped the F-bomb a few times in a row or typed OMG or LOL to get the point across? When you are human, it is easy to understand what the person is saying and the context in which it is being said in. But if you are a programmable machine….well, not so much. (Or if you are a small child repeating what you hear from your parents…but that is funny and a story for another time.)

We all remember IBM’s Watson – the famous artificial intelligence machine kicked some serious butt when playing Jeopardy against the humans because Watson had encyclopedias of information downloaded into its circuit brain. (Oh, silly, silly humans thinking they could beat a machine.) Well, the head researcher, Eric Brown, was looking for ways to make Watson even better and thought it would be a great idea to download The Urban Dictionary into its wiring. And while it was a good idea, the outcome was definitely less than stellar.

If you have ever visited The Urban Dictionary (and who hasn’t), then you know it is chock full of informal language, most of which is quite dirty, including insults and curse words. Well, after Watson went on an insult spree, throwing curses right and left, it was realized that maybe this wasn’t quite a good idea.

According to Michael Lev-Ram in a January issue of Fortune Magazine:

“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.

Ultimately, Brown’s 35-person team developed a filter to keep Watson from swearing and scraped the Urban Dictionary from its memory.”

I would have LOVED to see a computer swear to a researcher. I think that is even better than a little kid. I think I would laugh hysterically. Probably because I would say the same thing.

(via: The Atlantic)

For more robots doing crazy things, check out a heavy metal all-robot rock band or a robot that squirts water at intruders.