The IBM Jeopardy Challenge ended as expected with IBM’s supercomputer ,Watson, comfortably defeating its human rivals , Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. However , the final day of competition more enjoyable as Ken and Brad managed to buzz in a bit more often than they had the previous day . Both at the beginning and at the end of the session, Watson dominated the proceedings buzzing in and answering almost every question but in the middle part Ken ,in particular, managed to score heavily. In fact, for much of the session , Ken was actually leading Watson thanks to a Daily Double wager in which he doubled his winnings .
As I remarked in an earlier post, the odds were stacked against the two humans because their response time could not possibly match that of the computer’s. Their only chance was to keep close and hope that Watson guessed wrong on Final Jeopardy while they themselves guessed right and doubled their winnings . They gave it a shot but Watson blitzed them early and late and everyone got the Final Jeopardy question right . With its sizeable first round lead , Watson was almost guaranteed to win ; it would have taken a miracle for Ken or Brad to overtake it . It didn’t happen .
There is still one question in my mind about this Jeopardy Championship . What would have happened if the three competitors had entered the Final Jeopardy Round within striking distance of one another ? Would Watson’s programming have allowed it to make the correct bet to keep ahead of its rivals ? There are many variables that impact on the amount of the bet ( the category of the question , knowledge of competitor’s strengths and weaknesses , the amounts they would be likely to bet etc.) . Watson , as far as I know , is only programmed to respond to Alex Trebek and would not be aware of what its two rivals were doing . As we saw yesterday and again today, Watson was erratic when it came to deciding the amount of the Final Jeopardy wager and might have given its rivals a chance to pip it at the post if the race had been close. It wasn’t and Watson won handily.
In a sense , though , there were no losers. Watson won the Challenge, and IBM won because of the enormous publicity generated by this match .The contest stimulated great interest in the commercial applications of the program and could lead to important breakthroughs in many fields. Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter were also winners merely because they were competitive when matched up against a computer that occupies an entire room. Three worthwhile charities won because they benefited to the tune of a million and a half dollars . And we humans can all feel good about the capabilities of our ( so much smaller) brains . We won too.
As Ken Jennings wrote on his Final Jeopardy answer , ” Hail the Computer overlord ” . Yes , but let us not forget it was humans who created Watson. Congratulations to all the winners .