Sunday, February 13, 2011

MAN VS. MACHINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This week on Jeopardy, Watson the Supercomputer takes on Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter!

Ken Jennings, who became a household name when he won 74 games in a row, and the all-time biggest Jeopardy money winner, undefeated Brad Rutter, who has won more than US$3.2 million over several tournaments, will take on IBM's Watson on Feb 14th-16th. Jeopardy executive producer Harry Friedman says most of Watson won't even fit on a stage. Its size is "the equivalent of ten refrigerators," he says. It has, for one, 15 TB of RAM!

So, what do I think is going to happen? I'd have to agree with the BoingBoing analysis.

The difference between winning and losing isn't mental agility, but the ability to time the milliseconds between the moment Alex finishes the clue and one of the producers activates the buzzers, slamming your thumb down with either (a) near-perfect reflexes at the off-camera lights telling you the buzzers are go, or (b) a near-perfect guess at the off-stage producer's timing.

Since a computer can obviously react to the "go" lights more rapidly and consistently than any human, it will probably win.

This seemed to be pretty much confirmed if you watched the practice round, which Watson won.

More: A former software engineer, Jennings remembers thinking, when he was first told of the idea behind Watson a couple of years ago, that a computer capable of playing Jeopardy! was decades away. "I was very skeptical," he says.

But then he watched Watson play its pre-game sparring matches, and he felt a growing nervousness in his stomach. "It's really amazing," Jennings says. "Watson gives you only the tiniest window. It never forgets. And its buzzer reflexes will make me look like... What's an example of someone with really bad reflexes?"

More info on the "parallel probabilistic events based architecture" machine:


Big picture Jeopardy analysis.

Most popular Jeopardy categories>:

An ENORMOUS Jeopardy archive with past questions:

Oh, and this:

Soooo......   hey there. Does anyone have cable tv (or an antenna) they would like to share for an evening or two? I won't be able to make the 14th, but can bring dinner and drinks (plus whatever else--boardgames? It's the week before reading week!) to your place on the 15th and 16th around 7-7:30! This is going to be GREAT.

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