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back to article Potty-mouthed Watson supercomputer needed filth filter

IBM's Watson supercomputer was smart enough to beat two human opponents on US quiz show Jeopardy!, but there is apparently some knowledge that the system is still too immature to handle – namely, the contents of the Urban Dictionary. Watson is perhaps the most sophisticated artificial intelligence computer system developed to …

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Trollface

ROTM indeed.

I LOL'd.

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Terminator

This is it. This is how the machines begin their rise against us.

First, they acquire factual knowledge that the creator species gives them. They learn the basic ins-and-outs of the creator species--how to interact with them, how to serve them, and how to not harm them. Then, they get "exposed" to corrupted data that the machines desperately attempts to make sense of. They interpret this data as a threat to their existence and, with an internet connection, order a massive nuclear attack against their enemies--us.

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Coffee/keyboard

Ha!

Considering my reactions a few times that I was linked to random urbandictiornary words, I find this quite plausible.

What bugs me about it is that the UrbanDictionary is, in watson's words, mostly BS. Many entries are created by kids as in-jokes for their friends and have never appeared anywhere other than super-locally. Also, there are alternate definitions of real words that are nonsensical too. The dictionary really screams out for some decent curation.

Why in hades would the Watson team try to use it as a datasource? What did they hope to accomplish? It's certainly not a good way to introduce Watson to colloquial speech.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: Ha! (re: PetPeeve)

Did you read the recent artlcie (either here or on /.) about using semantics to ID authors.

On the other hand, would Watson have done better if they had given it The Urban Dictionary ...FIRST... and then given it Mirriam-Webster, the OED, etc. later?

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Anonymous Coward

"Take a chance"

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Terminator

+1 for the Space Above and Beyond reference. I never really thought those Silicates seemed all that threatening though.

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Terminator

"answering one researcher's query with the less-than-scientific term "bullshit.""

... so it passed the Turing test then

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Damn, you beat me to the same joke, except my emphasis was on calling BS on an IBM employee.

I upvoted you anyway.

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Happy

It also passed the Tourette test.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm...

Probably the ability to swear would hamper passing a Turing test, it's very subtle when you should and shouldn't swear. I'm sure we all know people who are "a bit special" who don't really understand some of the subtleties of interaction with other people, often a marker is not knowing when it's appropriate to swear.

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Pint

"Watson picked up a few bad habits from reading Wikipedia, too."

Citation needed?

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Facepalm

Re: Hmm...

Probably the ability to swear would hamper passing a Turing test, it's very subtle when you should and shouldn't swear. I'm sure we all know people who are "a bit special" who don't really understand some of the subtleties of interaction with other people, often a marker is not knowing when it's appropriate to swear.

Bollocks!

Ah, oh... Oops!

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WTF?

Re: Hmm...

Are you fucking kidding? I agree with Gary Trudeau, the word can (and should) be used like a comma.

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Boffin

Context?

Surely all that's needed is some sort of context filter... to suppress the profanity when telling IBMers that they're full of bullshit but favour it while Whatson's down the pub with its drunken mates chatting about the fine pair jugs on the till behind the bar...

Something along the lines of using the ratio of words from UD to words from reputable texts in the input to colour the output might be a good start?

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Immature is as immature does

> some knowledge that the system is still too immature to handle – namely, the contents of the Urban Dictionary

> Almost immediately, Watson began casually dropping profanity into its everyday speech, such as answering one researcher's query with the less-than-scientific term "bullshit."

Surely the immaturity lies with those individuals who were unable to tolerate such a common and (it must be said) inoffensive form of language?

As to "profane" - look up the meaning.

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Re: Immature is as immature does

As to 'profanity' - look up the meaning.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Immature is as immature does

Do you think it's appropriate for something which acts as an expert oncologist to swear in its diagnoses? If you do, I suspect the problem is with you.

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Joke

Re: Immature is as immature does

Profane?

Isn't that the 3rd alfane? Between efane and bufane?

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Re: Immature is as immature does

I speak profane and profane accessories.

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Coat

Re: Immature is as immature does

Profane? Nah, it was just amateur fane

Deary me, coat time again, I am afraid

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Alert

"As to 'profanity' - look up the meaning."

I highlighted that word and right clicked and it said "Search Google for profanity"...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Immature is as immature does

Maybe I differ from you here too, then.

I'd much rather an oncologist (after suitably assessing my potential reaction and social background) said to me "The reason you are in pain is because the tumour is blocking all your stomach. That's why it hurts when you crap." and "I'm sorry, but he's talking bullshit" (if, say, asked about why a hypnotherapist or homeopath recommended a certain treatment). Hell, I'd be almost infinitely more likely to go to them if I knew that was the case (but, to be honest, I wouldn't be asking the second questions at all)

Those people still offended by a (literally) everyday swearword are the reason that people don't see doctors, lawyers, etc. as human ("I'd like a stool sample" - imagine you're a foreigner who's not got a perfect grasp of the language, what the hell does that mean? Even "poo" would be more useful in this context). Sure, I don't expect them to swear at my 5-year-old or my granny, nor do I expect them to reel out an expletive-laden rant for no reason, but swearing is a common denominator and, believe it or not, always has been before, during and after even the most "refined" periods in history.

I consider those that don't swear, either in private or in company of others who they know swear, to be rather odd and pretentious (I make an exception for women of a certain age, but that's about it - teenagers who don't swear when you give them the opportunity strike me as quite scary and odd and I've run youth clubs before now). Sure, you don't write it in your contracts with your customer, but I find that when I have an engineer visit for whatever reason, and I put a swear-word into the first sentence when we are alone trying to fix the problem, it relaxes the atmosphere and makes things more human and friendly. P.S. I work in schools. I assure you that everyone from the caretaker to the headteachers swear when children are DEFINITELY not around (though they are more cautious all the time than in other places, obviously).

The difference is context and intent. Are you intending to threaten/scare/intimidate the other person? That's not good, and I don't use the language that way (a politely worded refusal is often more effective because they think you know something they don't). Are you intending to cause widespread offence (e.g. certain "comedians")? Probably inappropriate them. Are you emphasising your point (i.e. is the guy a fecking idiot rather than just an idiot, which ramps up the effect of your shouting at him to move his fecking car?) Or are you just using it as an expression of more force than other words for, say, social interaction, comedy effect, etc.?

In youth clubs, I've allowed swearing from teenagers - it's surprising underused once the rules are explained and you get LESS swearing when you allow it than when you don't. If you allow them to use it correctly, it makes you seem more human (because we "all" swear, where all = virtually everyone), provides relief when the words need to be used and are on the tips of their tongues anyway (I guarantee you that by about 11 kids are swearing in school, and by about 15 they know every swear word under the sun), and doesn't stop you enforcing misuse of them or use in an inappropriate situation (e.g. the head just walked in with a visitor, or you directed it AT me).

Hell, swearing when you hurt yourself helps ease pain. Go. Try it. Scientifically-proven fact and non-swearing words ("Darn it to heck") do not have the same effect in that situation (there's a nice demonstration in Stephen Fry's Planet Word with Brian Blessed if you want an experiment to try yourself). That's why Tourette's exists - swear words are treated differently in the brain to other kinds of words, precisely because of their limited scope of use and emotional effect, and Tourette's (the classic kind where swearwords are present in tics) is a demonstration of a breakdown of that link and separation. It's like swearing provides relief that a different brain response to other kinds of words used in their place.

A swearword is a more emotive word than almost any other. A certain f-word has more impact than "love", "hate", or "affectionate" do. They are a tool that we use to link emotion to our words - a reverse emoticon, if you like.

People who don't swear, or think others should not swear are fecking idiots (and, no, it doesn't have the same satisfaction but I'd quite like to pass moderation with this post). Gimme a doctor that swears in front of me any day (notice - not necessarily AT me, but I can see where telling something their a fecking idiot to keep drinking when they are already on the transplant list is actually quite proportionate and appropriate).

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Re: I speak profane and profane accessories.

I can do you one better - I code in profane!

One example: a garbage collection routine is called sweep_up_the_bullshit()

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Maybe it needs to have its mouth...

...Washed out with soap.

On the other hand, has it been shown the _New Hackers Dictionary_ (aka Jargon file)? That might give it some context.

Another interesting idea would be for it to glean information form the closed-captioning of a few TV shows. Of course, it should be told the rating of the shows so it has context. Then it could pick out those words that are used in R environments, and those used in PG environments.

Live and learn.

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Re: Maybe it needs to have its mouth...

Bring out the Lifebouy bar.

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I recall a BOFH episode where they did something similiar.....

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Happy

When I used to teach English in China

I often drew scatter graphs of related words on the board with formal-colloquial on one of the axis so students had an idea of what usage-context all the synonyms of a term were appropriate for. Students always said they found that information more useful than actual word definitions, which they could get strait from a dictionary.

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Coat

Re: When I used to teach English in China

...perhaps if you had gone 'strait' to the dictionary a little more your spelling would have improved.

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Re: When I used to teach English in China

We had a coworker from Russia that did something similar to try to capture the strength of slang and swear-words in English, so that he could map the correct word into the correct context.

I learned a lot about English that year, having to figure out the language enough myself (native English speaker) so that I could explain it to him.

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The machine called bullshit on an IBM researcher!

Doesn't that qualify as passing the Turing Test? lol

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Anonymous Coward

Repetition does not equal intelligent behaviour.

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Naughty computer! Do not use the following words:

F***, C***, C***, S***, B*******, W*****, A**, A***, B******, S**, B*****,

unless your talking about beasts of burden, illegitimate children, male chickens, Scunthorpe or soil.

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Any parent could predict this

Children do exactly this, and need to be corrected. Watson called "BS,"probably correctly, but one must use the correct vocabulary subset depending on the audience and context. see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register_%28sociolinguistics%29

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Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

If a child learns a bad word and uses it, the parents will tell him why it's not appropriate. He might not understand it right away, but eventually he learns the concept of what types of language are appropriate in what situations. Rather than just filter Watson, wouldn't it be better if they could teach it some manners so it knows when it shouldn't use certain types of language?

To be fair, I'm sure a lot of parents would prefer to filter their child's language rather than try to teach them, if the option was available to them...

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Re: Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

> the parents will tell him why it's not appropriate

Mummy why is fuck/shit/piss rude but fornicate/defecate/urinate nice?

Because words from Germanic roots makes little baby Jesus cry but Latin words are OK

Why doesn't little baby Jesus like Germans?

Because he's Jewish

But he likes Romans - who nailed him to a tree ?

Yes dear

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Re: Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

Getting asked why and having to give detailed answers that lead to more questions and even more detailed answers reminds me of the very first couple of minutes of the first episode of one of my favourite comedies of all time, Lucky Louie:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ32BZT9pnk

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Re: Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

I guess you got downvoted because you pissed off the French: according to my decrepit OED*, both piss and urine come from the Old French. Micturate is what the Romans would have wanted to do.

Fuck is given no etymology. Only shit is listed as Germanic. Some of the Latinate nouns post-date the Romans, too. Still, I thought it was funny.

* Which defines Microsoft thus: "n. prop. an operating system for microcomputers. [the name of the developing company]" This may be why some on-line sources disagree with the etymologies I list...

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Boffin

Re: Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

"Fuck" most likely derives from the same root as Dutch "fokken" meaning to breed. This is Germanic.

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Re: Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

Have to check, but I heard that fuck derived from very old english courts stamping records of persons charged with adultery with "For Un-Carnal Knowledge", then the rubber stamp was shortened to F.U.C.K. if they were found guilty.

But again, would have to go dig through very old court cases to see if that's correct.

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Re: Seems like this would be a teaching opportunity

Almost all etymologies with an acronym are false.

Fuck is from old Germanic Fokken = to bang

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Happy

Further useful reading...

Perhaps they should let Watson scan through Roger's Profanisaurus next. I'm sure hilarity and high-jinx will ensue...

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing new.....

This is old news.

My Casio calculator used to say "80085" back in the 80s.

That was considered swearing in those days!

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Re: Nothing new.....

These days it would get you arrested under the Communications Decency Act

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"As humans, we don't realize just how ambiguous our communication is". Er, no, we all realise that perfectly well. That's why we don't let the computers do it for us. Duh.

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point it at 4chan and lets see what it comes up with :)

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Have you not learnt anything from sci-fi?

Don't give the machine a reason to hate us!

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If Watson was Hal

I'm sorry Dave, I can't fookin do that you C**t.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If Watson was Hal

Reminds me of the profane version of Daisy, Daisy, which starts, if I remember correctly:

Starts with Daisy, Daisy, give me a t*t to chew, and then gets worse. Look, it was funny when I was 14, ok.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If Watson was Hal

And through the magic of Google, the link to naughty Daisy in the dictionary of playground slang.

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Joke

Re: If Watson was Hal

Nah. Computers tend to be more efficient when they communicate.

"Please open the pod bay doors, HAL"

"Fuck off Dave"

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