The Watson Super Computer Will Help You Find Your Next Favorite Author

IBM Watson
IBM Watson live and in person

Who (or What) Is IBM Watson?

IBM Watson logo
The Watson logo was designed to have 42 lines, a subtle reference to author Douglas Adams (don’t forget next week is Towel Day!)

After the super computer Deep Blue beat chessmaster Gary Kasparov in 1997, IBM wanted to take on an even more difficult challenge. They built IBM Watson specifically to compete on the game show Jeopardy!. January 13, 2011 they succeeded: IBM Watson won a Jeopardy! match against two all-time champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

What’s Under the Hood

Watson can process 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second. It is built of 90 IBM servers and has 16 terabytes of RAM.

Watson differs from your average computer in that it is built to interpret open-ended questions, and give the answer in the way a human would. So though Watson may not look like the cute kid from A.I. it is technology advancing the field of artificial intelligence.

Watson + Alibris = Your New Favorite Author

IBM Watson Partnership with Alibris banner shows Mark Twain, our sample author

Alibris has teamed up with IBM Watson and NextUser for a little experiment. We’ve put Watson’s massive data-crunching skills on the task of analyzing 2,000 of our most celebrated authors. Watson uses a personality system based on years of psychological research in order to evaluate the author’s work. (How much research? Well, Watson can read 30,000 documents a day, and contains more 200 million pages of content.) Looking at samples of writing, Watson ranks the author on 47 unique traits that measure the personality characteristics, values, and needs of each author. The results are fun on their own, or you can use them to find similar authors that you may enjoy.

IBW Watson's evaluation of Kurt Vonnegutt
Here’s a basic report Watson gave for one of my favorite authors

I could go into further detail on how all this works, but truly the best way to understand it is to try it out for yourself. I can’t wait to know what you think of this project. Did the personality evaluation it served for your favorite author make sense? Did you like the similar authors it recommended?

What I love about artificial intelligence is that it’s a win-win. If Watson succeeds, our lives are made easier by the power of computers. If Watson fails, we get to feel smug about how much smarter we still are than machines. So give it a try and let us know what you think.

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