Computer crushes human ‘Jeopardy!’ champs

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 15, 2011 20:01 EDT
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CHICAGO – An IBM computer crushed two human champions Tuesday in the second round of a man vs. machine showdown on the popular US television game show “Jeopardy!”

“Watson,” a supercomputer named after Thomas Watson, founder of the US technology giant, dominated the game by beating his human opponents to the buzzer on all but a handful of questions.

The computer managed to answer every attempted question correctly — except the usually critical final round.

The audience groaned when Watson answered “What is Toronto????” to the question: “Its largest airport is named for a WWII hero. Its second largest, for a WWII battle” under the category US cities.

Ken Jennings — who holds the “Jeopardy!” record of 74 straight wins — gave Chicago as the correct answer, as did Brad Rutter who won a record $3.25 million on the show.

But even though they wagered nearly all their winnings on the challenge, they couldn’t catch up to Watson’s lead.

Watson ended the second day of the three day challenge with $36,681 while Rutter had $5,400 and Jennings had $2,400.

Watson, which is not connected to the Internet, plays the game by crunching through multiple algorithms at dizzying speed and attaching a percentage score to what it believes is the correct response.

Watson receives the clues electronically by text message at the same time as they are revealed to the human contestants.

The first player to hit the buzzer gets to answer the question. The others only get a chance to answer if the first player gets the answer wrong.

Watson beat the humans to the buzzer in 24 of 30 Double Jeopardy questions. Jennings managed to get three correct answers in while Rutter won two.

None were able to identify a portrait of Spanish King Phillip II as that which was stolen at gunpoint from an Argentina gallery in 1987.

Watson, which has been under development at IBM Research labs in New York since 2006, is the latest machine developed by IBM to challenge mankind — in 1997, an IBM computer named “Deep Blue” defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a six-game match.

“Jeopardy!,” which first aired on US television in 1964, tests a player’s knowledge in a range of categories, from geography to politics to history to sports and entertainment.

A dollar amount is attached to each question and the player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner. Players have money deducted for wrong answers.

In a twist on traditional game play, contestants are provided with clues and need to supply the questions.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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  • Anonymous

    But can it make a good cup of coffee?

  • Michael McTague

    I’m fed up enough with the clowns, thieves, drunkards and morons in government that I’d give Watson a four year term. We’d be out of all those wars, the bases worldwide would be shut down and the malfeasants that brought us here would be in jail ( presuming he’d replace their friends on the supreme court.) And that would be in Watson’s 1st 14 minutes.

    Before coffee break Watson would break the AIPAC strangle hold on the nation, institute a national comprehensive medical care program, get rid of the federal reserve and stop all bogus payoffs, I mean subsidies, that aren’t really good for the nation (sugar, corn, syn-fuel etc.) By lunch Watson will have instituted real tax reform, clawed back Wall St. bonuses, legalized all drugs, revamped the educational system and said there is no such thing as clean coal.

    I imagine he’d be finished his job by happy-hour and would spend the rest of his term playing chess or jeopardy, while we all once again lived in the land of milk and honey.

  • Guest

    The Land of Milk and Honey, brought to you by cheap oil.

  • Anonymous

    You might be right, but remember the basic law of computing: garbage in, garbage out. If the programmers are crooked so will the results be. And figuring that it would probably be some flunkie who used to work for Diebold, I suspect that the country and the world would be over with sooner than you can imagine.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe FaceBook will become the new President of Egypt.

  • Anonymous

    Its much worse than that

    This computer just regurgiates information. If you asked it “how do we win in afghanistan” it could not even begin to answer the question.

    Hooray to Michael McTague, he probably worshipped his “Speak and Spell” as an infant.