Jeopardy proves too elementary for Watson

By Shannon Metherell
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As technology advances, computers often control much of our lives. Starting with the simple monitor and bulky tower to store memory, to an advanced machine invented by IBM Research called Deep Blue that could compete against human beings in a game of chess.

Well, IBM is back and their team has teamed up with Jeopardy, a well-known trivia show to introduce a human-like machine named Watson, to compete against the top two human contestants in the game thus far, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

“I usually never watch Jeopardy, it’s a little boring to me,” said Kristie D’Agostino, “but when I heard about this from my friend, I kind of wanted to see it.” Just like Kristie, I also have no interest in watching Jeopardy, but hearing the talk about a computer competing against humans got me curious.

At first I thought that this had to be a joke and was staged, watching Watson get the majority of the questions right I stopped watching and focused on something else. When I heard Watson answering questions wrong, my mind tuned back into the show. The idea of IBM working on a machine this advanced made me realize how computers are quickly contributing to the majority of people’s lives. It has now about your capability to create the next big thing, like Watson.

Watson is made up of 90 IBM 750 servers that help break down the information presented to it into data that Watson can read, understand, and learn without the help of the Internet. The computer is programmed using advanced algorithms that allowed Watson to scan through the stored data to pick out the best answer needed for the question on Jeopardy.

Dealing with computers as his hobby, Chris Panton commented on his amazement with IBM’s challenge, “It would prove something to the world and would be a significant advancement in how we and computers interact.” Students like myself may feel excited about the latest Jeopardy challenge, but just like most do not watch it, most students did not care to see it.

There has been talk about whether or not Jeopardy only included Watson on it’s show just as a publicity stunt instead of something real they wanted to show the world.

“It’s obviously a publicity stunt to gain more viewers for the show since their ratings have been dropping recently. Someone is backstage with all the questions and answers in hand, then sends it to the ‘computer’,” said Mark Gerdy.

Although this could be a possible accusation, but the beginning of the episodes clearly explains how IBM has created Watson. Sorry Mark, guess you were wrong!

Publicity stunt or not, IBM’s Watson has accomplished being the center of attention fairly well. To learn more about the complexity of Watson, visit http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/smartest-machine-on-earth.html.