Thursday, February 17, 2011

Man vs. Machine: Who won?

Over the last three nights, Jeopardy! has presented "The IBM Challenge", in which the company entered a super computer, Watson, into a two-game series against two of Jeopardy!'s most successful contestants, Ken Jennings & Brad Rutter. I watched the show the first two nights, during which the first game was played, and missed the second game due to other commitments.

What did we learn? For one thing, Watson was, at first, fallible, and after the first night, Rutter was tied with Watson. Jennings, surprisingly, was having trouble keeping up. On Tuesday, it was over in a hurry, as Watson, adapting to the game as it went along, blew away the competition. Wednesday night's game, as I understand, was more of the same, as Watson earned the $1,000,000 first prize, which is being donated to Worldvision. In terms of game play, Watson accumulated over $75,000 in cash winnings over the three nights, a figure that some human contestants can reach in the same amount of time or less, depending on skills. In short, Watson made this game seem-----wait for it----elementary.

The reason the first game stretched over two nights was because the show was turned into a partial infomercial to explain the development of Watson and the genesis of "The IBM Challenge". Things return to normal tonight, but one wonders if this could be duplicated on other shows, like, say for example, To Tell The Truth, should that be revived again. I highly doubt it, but if they come up with another computer named Holmes........!

No comments: