Watson's Win a Victory ... for Humans

Jeopardy! king discusses his epic battle with the computer
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2011 12:32 PM CST
Ken Jennings: Watson's Jeopardy Win a Victory for Humans
"Jeopardy!" contestant Ken Jennings, who won a record 74 consecutive games.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Going into his Jeopardy! match against IBM’s Watson supercomputer, champ Ken Jennings saw himself as humanity’s representative, "the Great Carbon-Based Hope against a new generation of thinking machines," he writes for Slate. But victory wasn’t to be: Watson played Jeopardy much like a top-ranked human. (Quipped Jennings: "It's very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman.") But, Jennings writes, "unlike us, Watson cannot be intimidated.”

What's more, Watson had the upper hand in terms of dexterity: Super-fast buzzing skills are essential to the game, and the machine can “rely on the millisecond-precision timing of a computer” as well as reflexes that never vary, Jennings notes in the New York Daily News. Ultimately, it was “game over for humanity”—or was it? To IBM engineers, this was a human victory, Jennings realized: Watson was a masterpiece of human innovation. Indeed, one engineer told Jennings that “there's a lot of you in Watson." So it's "a happy ending, after all," concludes Jennings. "At least until the whole system becomes sentient and figures out the nuclear launch codes. But I figure that's years away." (More Ken Jennings stories.)

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