The deal with Watson

Ferruci gives a brief semi-technical talk on how Watson works

The question on everyone’s mind is what does Watson represent in terms of AI advancement? It’s a very advanced piece of natural language processing and machine learning, impressive parallel computing and engineering, and clever domain specific (ie jeopardy) trickery. But Watson does not represent significant improvement towards general AI, although it’s probably general enough to apply to other question answering, QA, domains.

After all, that’s what the name of the technology suggests, DeepQA. Deeper natural language processing and semantic understanding, but not the level of depth of real understanding. And this takes us to the question of what exactly do we mean by real understanding. The simple answer seems, the understanding that we associate with humans in tasks of reading comprehension. Of course, using this definition alone leads to the no-win trap that many AI researchers complain about: if the goal necessarily includes the human element, the by definition it is unattainable by a machine.

There are two approaches to reach a useful (as in, not predetermined to produce failure) metric of success. Those that concentrate on results, and those that concentrate on the internals that give rise to results. More on this later.

liquid tool


This is a simple tool I put together to test a few ideas and understand how liquid democracy works. Its freely available to anybody who wants to play around with it, or use it to demonstrate the idea of liquid democracy. Its written in Scala and Java as a test of interoperability.

You can download it here

To run

java -jar liquid_2.8.1-0.1.min.jar

You need java6, the Scala runtime is included (using Proguard)

Setting up wordpress on EC2

So I finally decided to set up a wordpress installation on EC2 (free tier, yes) as a CMS to host my personal webpage. I used a stack from bitnami, that went smoothly. All I had to do after that was get wordpress serving on the root of the domain, instead of on the preconfigured /wordpress subdirectory.

After that I googled for a bit to find a decent theme, and Im using the word decent here on purpose. Most themes out there are really horrible. Chock full of crap and tacky. I mean it’s not so much about minimalism, but about having a minimum of taste! Anyway, I found a decent one called blogum (you can find the credits on the footer) and made a few modifications.

So, here we are, this is the result!