Saturday, December 7, 2013

The IBM Watson Team: Collective Creativity

The team that built IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson was put together by David Ferrucci. This is from an article he wrote for the NYTimes last January:
From the first, it was clear that we would have to change the culture of how scientists work. Watson was destined to be a hybrid system. It required experts in diverse disciplines: computational linguistics, natural language processing, machine learning, information retrieval and game theory, to name a few.

Likewise, the scientists would have to reject an ego-driven perspective and embrace the distributed intelligence that the project demanded. Some were still looking for that silver bullet that they might find all by themselves. But that represented the antithesis of how we would ultimately succeed. We learned to depend on a philosophy that embraced multiple tracks, each contributing relatively small increments to the success of the project.

Technical philosophy was important, but so were personal dynamics. Early on, I made the unpopular decision to bring the entire team together in a war room, to maximize communication. The shared space encouraged people with wildly different skills and opinions to exchange ideas.
Whoops! Real-honest-to-god interdisciplinary cooperation rears its crazy head. Uncle Dave, you mean I have to talk to those guys?

The film business is the same way. See Walter Murch on Collective Creativity.

1 comment:

  1. I particularly enjoyed that

    "I was willing to live with possible failure as a downside, but was the team?"

    Part of university I found most difficult its filled with creatures that make no mistakes. Seemed to be a somewhat strange comedy of manners with lots of entrenched static positions adopted.The way I seem to learn is by making a series of howling errors and slowly identifying them as such.

    Not something to fear just got to embrace its part of the processes of learning.