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IBM's Watson turns air blue after reading Urban Dictionary


By Barry Collins

Posted on 11 Jan 2013 at 11:47

IBM engineers have had to censor their Watson supercomputer after it started swearing at researchers.

Watson is being taught to understand human speech, famously taking part in the US quiz show Jeopardy in 2010.

At around the same time Watson took part in the quiz show, IBM engineer Eric Brown began teaching the supercomputer words from the Urban Dictionary, which describes itself as a "veritable cornucopia of streetwise lingo, posted and defined by its readers".

Unfortunately, it appears Watson grasped some of the fruitier definitions a little too well, using the phrase "bulls***" to answer one researcher's query, according to an interview with Brown in Fortune magazine.

Consequently, Brown and his team had to develop a profanity filter for Watson who, like the average train ticket inspector, failed to grasp the difference between polite and rude responses. The Urban Dictionary has been scraped from Watson's memory.

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User comments

brilliant. made my day. well done Eric.

By mr_chips on 11 Jan 2013


So, let me get this straight. They are trying to create a machine that can think for itself; like a person, really. So, the child (the machine) learnt to swear and what did they do? They lobotomised it (wiped the dictionary from its memory).

Isn't this counter-productive? Shouldn't they try to teach it that swearing is not nice? Why not use the stick and carrot analogy? More RAM for being a good boy, or girl for that matter, and decreasing the number of CPU cores for being naughty!

By yiannis_c on 11 Jan 2013


They could teach it alternative words to use when confronted with swear words from a dictionary.

By curiousclive on 13 Jan 2013

scraped or scrapped?

Sorry, just being aynall

By gfmoore on 13 Jan 2013

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