Did anybody really think the humans were going to beat IBM’s Supercomputer, Watson, in a battle of wits? I sure didn’t. No matter how smart the famously previous Jeopardy! Champions Brad Rutter or Ken Jennings thought they were, they were no match for the smarts of a cluster of hard drives, processors and the occasional wrong answer of IBMS latest creation. With a strong third day of playing and a staggering bid on Final Jeopardy, Wednesday night’s game ended with Watson raking in a whopping $77,147. Runners up Jennings ($24,000 total) and Brad Rutter ($21,600) were clearly outmatched.
For crushing its human rivals, Watson won a total prize of $1 million, which IBM has said will go to the charities World Vision and World Community Grid. Jennings and Rutter each got $300,000 and $200,000 respectively, half of which each said they would be donating to charities.
Rounds 1 and 2 in Jeopardy‘s Man vs. Machine stunt delivered the show’s biggest rating in years. Monday’s episode had an 8.7 household rating, while Tuesday’s numbers climbed to a 9.5. That’s the best Jeopardy! performance in nearly six years.
Now that the competition is over, I can’t help but wonder if Watson might have had an unfair advantage. While the other contestants must listen to host Alex Trebek read the clues, in their entirety, Watson had them electronically sent, starting the thought process a step ahead of the human competitors. Also, Watson did not have to perform the manual action of clicking a button to ring in. Could a human really click a button faster than a machine can electronically ring in? I wonder if any measures were taken to level that playing field. Nevertheless, Watson’s ability to verbalize a correct response from natural human wording and compete in the natural flow of a human game show is more than impressive, it was absolutely amazing.