Jeopardy: Machine vs. Meatbags

The IBM Jeopardy Challenge pits the game’s two greatest champions against IBM’s room full of servers, Watson.

The two organic meatbag competitors Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings put up a good fight in the first of three days of man vs. machine competition.

A few things stood out to me.

Response Time

A lot of Jeopardy is buzzer response time, or so I’m told. Watson is fast on the trigger as you would expect. I’m impressed when either human buzzes in first.


Watson talks sounds like a machine when it “speaks,” but it has remarkable pronunciation. At one point, Watson responded “Jean Valjean,” the character from Les Miserables, and it pronounced the name far better than I ever would have expected.

Watson is a Great Player

Win, lose or draw, IBM did an amazing job creating Watson. It’s more than holding its own against the two greatest players that the game has ever seen.

John Henry

As impressed as I am with Watson, I really want to see one of these men go all John Henry on the emotionless machine, and kick its ass. I feel pretty strongly about that because I believe this is the last time that a human will have a chance at beating a computer like Watson. The way that it’s handling itself indicates that a year from now it will be unbeatable, and two years from now it will blow everyone out of the water.

We live in interesting times.

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