It’s now only a matter of time before the only humans involved in game shows are those watching from home.
If you were pinning your hopes on people getting the better of technology, look away now. For IBM’s super computer, Watson, has schooled the greatest two players in the history of the venerable game show, Jeopardy!.
(More on Techland: See more about the men taking part in the game)
This doesn’t make for pretty reading. Wednesday saw Watson complete a clean sweep of Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, finishing with an impressive $77,147. To his credit, Jennings competed gamely for much of the program, even holding on to the lead for a fair while before the computer got into gear and started to dominate. And to give Jennings even more kudos, he had the good grace to crack a joke, even though The Simpsons got there first. “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” he wrote under his (correct) Final Jeopardy response, which got well-earned laughs from the studio audience.
Runner-up Jennings ($24,000) will give half of his $300,000 winnings to charity while Rutter ($21,600) will do the same with his $200,000. Watson (or rather IBM) is giving away the entire million dollars.
(More on TIME.com: See what Watson might do next.)
Earlier in the week, Tuesday’s show saw the culmination of what we had all feared in light of Monday’s episode vaulting the computer into an early lead. Watson carried on where he’d left off, as Jennings and Rutter only managed only five correct answers (out of a possible 30) during the Double Jeopardy round. And by the time Final Jeopardy had been and gone, Watson had a mighty $35,734 compared to Jennings’s $4,800 and Rutter’s $10,400.
Watson elegantly saw off the puny humans with responses on the likes of Franz Liszt, dengue fever, violin, Rachmaninoff and albinism. Even host Alex Trebek seemed spent: with Watson wanting to wage the extremely specific amount of $6,435 on a Daily Double, the laconic Trebek simply replied, “I won’t ask” (naturally, Watson was spot on here too).
As the game proceeded, even Watson’s guesses were paying off. The 32% certainty over Baghdad being the city from whose national museum the ancient Lion of Nimrud ivory relief went missing in 2003 was correct.
(More on TIME.com: See Lev Grossman’s TIME cover story about Singularity)
But possibly the ultimate irony (or should that be insult) was that the humans got Final Jeopardy right and Watson didn’t. Jennings and Rutter both knew that Chicago was the response to, “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle,” while Watson went with Toronto. Yet due to only placing $947, Watson had worked out the math and couldn’t lose. At that point, you wouldn’t have blamed the men if they didn’t show up to Wednesday’s finale, despite a cool $1 million being at stake. But show up they did and soundly beaten they duly were. (via AP)
(More on TIME.com: See a video asking if we should fear the likes of Watson.)