Dodge Retort: Jeopardy, Watson go home


By John Dodge

Over the past three nights, I have watched Watson, the IBM supercomputer, make mince meat of the two most formidable Jeopardy players ever. The inherently unfair contest gave me the creeps and was little more than an ad for IBM.

Watson, oh, shut up

The game seemed rigged from the start. Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter came close several times to overtaking Watson, but they were never fast enough.

Jennings and Rutter pushed their buttons to no avail: Watson’s 15 trillion bytes of memory were just too fast. The humanoids knew the answers, but rarely got an answer in edgewise against Watson’s nano-quickness.

Jennings and Rutter were up against overwhelming processing power. I bet like me, they wished they had a mere terabyte of memory.

Jennings looked as if he might pull off a win tonight, the last of the this week’s three segments, but Watson came on strong as the round closed. Jennings’ frustration boiled over after the final round tonight when under his answer, he wrote “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”

I don’t think so. Neither he nor Rutter liked being IBM’s stooges. They put on a good front, but inside, they looked steamed.

Jennings: "welcome computer overlords"

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6 thoughts on “Dodge Retort: Jeopardy, Watson go home”

  1. My first 4 function, handheld digital calculator and LCD wristwatch were about $80 in the early 70s – approx $400 current relative value. Both gadgets were crude behemoths by today’s standards.

    Will any of us be around when a Watsonesque device follows the same product development curve.

  2. The physical button had little effect on Watson’s ability to answer the questions. Watson still was able to answer 90% of the questions. If you don’t think this was an ad or at least a publicity stunt for IBM. Then How many times did you hear IBM?

  3. Speed to the button??? that’s the least interesting part of this. A steam powered machine could be faster to the button than humans, if knew when to push. The impressive thing is that the machine has a clue what the question means, not that it can press a button once it’s analyzed it and come up with an answer!

  4. If you watched the first 5-10 mins of the first show, they showed that Watson had a physical button that had to be “pushed” prior to him answering. While the button was triggered electronically, it was implied that Watson was subject to the same delay human contestants deal with in pushing the button.

    However, Since we know the limits of human reaction time (witness drag racing and track and field false start timing), perhaps it would have been a little fairer if they had built that same delay into Watson BEFORE he could trigger his button.

  5. Was this article written tongue in cheek?

    The Jeopardy-Watson match was not about whether or not Watson could defeat humans at Jeopardy. It obviously was not a fair competition even if only considering that Watson didn’t have to read or listen to the clues. Watson received them electronically.

    The contest was only an exhibition match. It was not an ad for IBM or a contest between humans or computers. Jennings and Rutter were only background scenery.

    The real benefit of this experiment was that it possibly created some advances or breakthrough in software technology. Not to mention that is was also entertaining, even the “tours of IBM’s premier lab, encomiums about natural language processing and wide-eyed researcher’s talking about what’s possible in science.”

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