Over the past couple of weeks, it’s possible that you’ve seen an IBM commercial here or there about Watson, IBM’s new and insanely powerful supercomputer, being prepped for a mission vital to humanity’s survival. Just kidding, they’re getting it to play Jeopardy, which is no less awesome, really.This was done through programming of an analytics algorithm designed to process and interpret natural language, and provide relevant answers. Watson is made up of 90 IBM Power 750 servers and 2,880 Power7 processors. The RAM needed to power it? An unfathomable 16 terabytes. Watson was going to be in for a challenge, though: a two match gauntlet against Jeopardy’s finest contestants ever. Watson would have to face Brad Rutter, the highest grossing champion in Jeopardy history, taking home a staggering $3.2 million, and the legendary Ken Jennings, whose 74 game winning streak in 2004 is already the stuff of television legend. Well, match one concluded tonight, so how did this machine wonder do?
To say Watson did pretty well would be a gross understatement. Throughout the two-day long match 1, Watson routinely made Rutter and Jennings look like…well, like they made their fellow human opponents look on past Jeopardy shows. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. Watson had its own unique problems on day one, including a humorous incident where it repeated an incorrect answer already given by Jennings, since it has no way of being able to hear or process opponents’ responses. Another gaffe involved Watson replying to an answer with “What is leg?,” failing to provide a specific enough answer (correct question: “What is a missing leg?”). After Day 1, the game looked to be on, with Watson tied with Rutter at $5,000 a piece, and Jennings in a distant third at $2,000.
Everything changed tonight, though. Watson went on nothing less than a rampage, dominating Double Jeopardy and taking Match 1 with a $35,734 haul, with Rutter far behind at $10,400 and Jennings taking a mere $4,800. There were even flashes of personality, with Watson stating on a Double Jeopardy question that it was going to take a guess (incidentally, a correct one) when it was not sure of the correct response. Those dollar totals above will be added to the totals of Match 2 to determine the winner; you don’t need Watson to see that things don’t look good for the humans in this iteration of Man vs Machine.
However, Final Jeopardy tonight gave humanity a little ray of hope. In a category called ‘U.S. Cities,’ both Jennings and Rutter responded correctly with “What is Chicago?,” while Watson provided the incomprehensibly wrong (and hilarious) answer of What is Toronto?????? (question marks included, indicating a high level of doubt, according to the programmers). Of course, Watson went on to offer what amounted to a slap to the face of its human victims, wagering an insignificant and equally hilarious $947, concluding a moment that the Internet will surely be having fun with tomorrow.
So, does humanity have any hope for the future, or will we be bowing to our new computer overlords, ruining bar trivia for everyone in the process? Match 2 plays out tomorrow. Help us Brad Rutter, you’re our only hope.