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Aaaaand, We’re Screwed: Watson Already Beating Up on Fleshy Jeopardy! Opponents

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By WG on January 14, 2011

Well, shit.

According to ZDNet, whose reps were at the practice round at IBM Research Worldwide Headquarters, the four-year old computing system project beat champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter swiftly and without emotion, which you can see in the video embedded below (courtesy of ZDNet).

This demonstration is just a precursor to the first-ever man vs. machine Jeopardy! competition, which will air on February 14, 15 and 16.


I’m calling shenanigans on one little problem I see with this contest – Watson has perfect timing. If two or three of the players know the answer immediately and try to ring in at the right moment Watson is going to win 99 times out of a hundred. Take a close look at the buzzing during the first round of Jeopardy! and you’ll usually see all three players pounding madly away at their signaling devices. They all know the answer, but the person who takes it to the bank is the one who gets in at the right time, which isn’t necessarily first by the way. Jeopardy! locks out players who ring in early, so anticipating the end of the question is a huge part of what separates the winners from the losers (newsflash, they’re all pretty smart).

According to this post by a supposed ToC contestant, the gatekeeper is a lowly production assistant who mans a button that lights up a signal on the board for the players use as their cue that it’s safe to buzz in. So how does Watson do this? Well, I don’t know. That’s what I’m asking. I guess it’s not really in the spirit of the competition to intentionally hinder Watson to make his buzzing more human, but if he receives the same electrical signal that tells the buzzers to turn on, Ken and Brad will be eating the dust out of his cooling fan pretty quickly.

Needless to say I’m a little nervous. Not looking forward to being enslaved.

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