Friday, January 14, 2011

Mr. Watson's Jeopardy

Let's Play Jeopardy!

Category: Common Themes Between Movies
Question: The Matrix, Terminator, Eagle Eye, Tron, I, Robot, Wargames….

What is computers and/or robots gaining the ability to reason and thus attempting to take over the world?


When I was younger, it was a tradition to watch “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” at the dinner table. To be able to **correctly** guess a puzzle or answer to a question before my quick-witted father made me feel like a million bucks… maybe even two million bucks! I continued this habit of watching Jeopardy in college and can remember when genius Ken Jennings appeared on the show and began his adventure into Jeopardy’s Hall of Fame. With 74 CONSECUTIVE wins, it is safe to say Ken’s knowledge and the ability to quickly recall these facts surmounts most “smart” contestants.

Well the creative minds behind Jeopardy have either become bored, run out of ideas, or are having a hard time finding contestants that could compete in that upper echelon with Mr. Ken and another very smart gentleman, Brad Rutter. I don’t blame them. The current Jeopardy! run began its 27th season this year. So what does a show do after being on the air for so long and are looking to “mix it up”? 

Bring in Watson.

Watson, comprised of 10 racks of IBM servers, (the size of 10 refridgerators) is interestingly not connected to the internet. His creators have downloaded all of his information (including: encyclopedias, dictionaries, news, play and movie scripts) to these servers. All of this information it not what makes Watson a winner, however. It is his ability to interpret the game show’s questions that are littered with underlying meanings and jokes, and quickly determine how certain he is of an answer and whether he should risk a guess. 

Creepy? Yes.

In a practice round recently held at the IBM research center in California, Watson beat out Ken and Brad winning $4,400 to Ken’s $3,400 and Brad’s $1,200. Brad felt slightly weary of competing against Watson, joking, “When Watson's progeny comes back to kill me from the future, I have my escape route planned just in case."

On February 14th-16th, Watson will be making his national television debut on Jeopardy! and I plan on watching a little bit of it. Sure they're worried about Watson getting a virus (heaven forbid!) or becoming damaged in transport, but maybe that will be better for all. (Just between you and me, kinda glad Watson isn’t connected to the internet… isn’t that how these computers start taking over the world? P.S. Alec, I would be worried about your job if I were you.)

I found a few videos of Watson and all of his creepy glory… take a look! (Please visit if you are unable to view this videos through email or google reader.)

If you would like to read more about Watson and his practice game, visit HERE.

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