As computers have become more and more impressive with individualized thought, the notion of computers becoming smarter than humans has developed not only into a theory, but the plot line for many major Hollywood blockbusters. Of course, are computers actually smarter and better than humans? It really depends on what the task is or what needs to be done. Now, should someone cut the Internet umbilical cord from the computer and it does make it a bit more interesting. That recently happened when a group of researches want to determine of IBM Watson could transcript song lyrics from different songs it had never heard before better than a professional, human transcriptionist who had also never heard the songs before.
The Songs and Music
Different musicians have different kinds of lyrics and sing in different ways. Due to this, it was very important for the testers to use different musicians in order to make sure the computer or person does not simply score better for an individual performer. Besides, there are probably some performers neither would have been able to properly decipher after one listen.
For the test, the researchers used a song by Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Elton John and Brad Paisley. All of the individuals have different singing styles and each style of music has different instrumentation. Due to this, it is possible for one individual or computer to do better with the transcription than the other. After the four different songs though, the professional transcriptionist did not have any errors or missing words from any of the four songs. The study used different professional transcriptionists to make sure they did not just land the best of the best professional, but instead had a quality sample from different individuals. On the other hand though, IBM Watson did struggle a bit with these different songs. Now, by reading over the transcription it is possible to understand the general meaning of the song, but it does take away drastically from the quality of the song though. Watson had four errors and six words missing form the Taylor Swift song, it had nine errors and 15 words missing from the Van Halen song, 12 errors and five words missing from the Brad Paisley song and eight errors and 3 words missing from Elton John. In total, this means Watson had 33 errors and 29 words missing from the four different songs. Additionally, it is necessary to understand that this did not simply happen over the course of an entire song. Instead, the study only took a single verse from each song.
What all of this means is that while IBM Watson and computers are helpful in certain instances, when it comes to professional transcription services where understanding how someone talks and the proper formation of the English language, humans still reign supreme.