Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jeopardy! The IBM challenge - Day 3 - Grand finale!

Tonight was the IBM challenge grand finale. With Rutter and Jenning "beaten to death" during day 2, the stake was high: would wetware have to concede the victory to hardware?

The first period was so-so: both human contestants made use of the 10-seconds delay allowed before answering when one presses the buzzer, and buzzed within a second of the end of the clue. In most of the cases, this proved enough to find the correct answer. Anyway, Watson managed to get some points there.

  • Watson: $4,200
  • Jennings: $3,400
  • Rutter: $2,400
 The second period started with Jennings and Watson almost tied. A few curious mistakes, as the "Dorothy Parker" instead of "Elements of style" in a daily double, which costed the supercomputer $2,197, which gave Jennings a temporary advantage.

It's also interesting to notice that some of the questions Watson passed had the correct answer among the three "most plausible" choices, albeit not the first one and usually with a very low score.

End of second period:
  • Watson: $4,800
  • Jennings: $8,600
  • Rutter: $2,400
The double jeopardy was a demonstration of the machine's superior ability when it comes to infer various pieces of a puzzle.

  • Watson: $23,400
  • Jennings: $18,200
  • Rutter: $5,600
And the final jeopardy. Everybody had still in mind the "US annexation of Toronto" of Tuesday, when Watson answered the double jeopardy question. The correct answer was Bram Stocker (famous for Dracula and a few other stories). All three contestants ended with the correct answer. Watson bet $17,943, a consequent wager that brought him way above Jennings.
  • Watson: $41,413
  • Jennings: $19,200
  • Rutter: $11,200

Congratulations to IBM and to the Watson team. This was a splendid demonstration and I bet many, many applications will emerge, probably not as fun as this one, but most likely as interesting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jeopardy! The IBM challenge - Day 2

Today could have been dubbed "let the spanking begin!": Watson really kicked asses.

During the first period, only one miss, which was also missed by all the players ("Picasso", "Impressionism" and "Cubism" were mentioned instead of "Modern Art").  By the end of it, the scores were as follow:

  • Watson: $23,881
  • Jennings: $1,200
  • Rutter: $3,400
The second period was as flaming as the first one.


  • Watson: $36,681
  • Jennings: $2,400
  • Rutter: $5,400

The Final Jeopardy clue was "U.S. City", and the enigma was to find the city was first airport was named after a WWII hero and the second after a WWII battle. If both contestants found the correct answer ("Chicago"), and bet most of their money, Watson went Canada ("What is Toronto???????"), but only bet $947.

The final scores for day 2 are

  • Watson: $35,734
  • Jennings: $4,800
  • Rutter: $10,400

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jeopardy! The IBM challenge - Day 1

Watson is opposed to Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. These candidates won over two millions dollars each and are considered to be the best players in the world.

During the first period, Watson did incredibly well, being beaten to answer certain questions by only a fraction of a second.

During the first break the scores were:

  • Watson: $5,200
  • Rutter: $1,000
  • Jennings: $200

The second period was however less fortunate. A close miss ("What is a leg?" instead of "What is a missing leg?"), some mistakes and several passes.

Day one achieved with:

  • Watson: $5,000
  • Rutter: $5,000
  • Jennings: $2,000

Tomorrow will be exciting!

Jeopardy! Men against the machine

Don't forget: the show is tonight, 7PM EST on ABC.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hackers Successfully Breached Nasdaq Systems

Fortunately, this was only the Internet front-end. From the article, it seems that suspicious files were found in a service platform, which could indicate that more malwares are to be found in the systems. The article doesn't mention what services were affected and if there is a potential for these to have been disseminated to other financial platforms or institutions.

Another article has more details on this. For instance, the platform is said to be used by Fortune500 companies to exchange confidential information. Also, it seems that this went on for a year without being detected. As of now, the matter is being investigated by the FBI.

Let's get a bit creative and let's imagine what are the possible scenarios.

1. The hackers got confidential information, either allowing them to invest with the equivalent of insider information, or to sell that information to other parties.

2. The hackers were able to modify the information in transit, biasing investments, and possibly altering the way some companies did business.

3. The hackers were able to suppress certain communications.

At this point, it seems that, although the backdoor was there, nothing was done.

I bet that in the next few days, all the financial places will start internal audits of their own systems. I hope there won't be too many surprises.

By the way, the official NASDAQ OMX statement can be found here.