If you haven’t watched Jeopardy! lately, you have missed the newest, most talked about happening on television lately. For two days last week, Jeopardy! hosted two of their top winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, who played against Watson, an IBM computer. The top money winner received one million dollars; the second won $300,000 and third place won $200,000. Thanks to my daughter I was alerted to this contest and decided to watch it.
The marvel of it was similar to hearing about the first rocket shot into space with John Glenn and I was awed. Watson’s voice sounds very close to a human voice often using more colloquial terminology and it was awesome to hear it select the categories. It’s quick responses of about three seconds shut out the competition many times. If there was any advantage it was the other two contestants could read the question quicker than Alex Trebek, the emcee, could read it and, thus, have a quicker response. The first day of competition was all Watson; however, by the second day, both Ken and Brad had made the adjustment and were ready for Watson. It was a battle for first that day.
Watson, “an artificial intelligence system capable of answering natural language questions, which won several Jeopardy!games against human contestants in February 2011 on the site.”* is the “brain child” of the Thomas J Watson Research Center which is the primary research center for IBM. Headed by Dr. David Ferrucci, the team developed a Power7 system which could provide “very rapid deep analytics of massively parallel problems” per Dr. John E Kelly, III, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. It has multiple applications for software used by businesses and personal use in the future. For the present, it provided a lot of entertainment and excitement about what is to come for the computers and for us.