The time has come to see if a computer can actually possess the rational thought and skill needed to beat a human in the ultimate competition of knowledge – Jeopardy.
Ken Jennings will probably be forever known as the greatest contestant the quiz show has ever seen. Brad Rutter, though not nearly as well known as Jennings, is an equally formidable contender. Rutter managed to defeat Jennings in a tournament of champions on the show, earning him $2 million and, as a result, placing his Jeopardy winnings above that of Jennings, even though his initial Jeopardy run was just five episodes.
But both of them have never faced a competitor like Watson before. That’s because Watson isn’t a person. It’s a computer. Made by IBM, Watson is billed as the most human-aware supercomputer ever constructed.
To reach that goal, IBM took on Jeopardy as its main sight, referring to the show as the ultimate example of displaying knowledge that requires more than just a basic formula or playbook.
So, Jennings and Rutter competed against Watson in three special episodes of the Alex Trebek-hosted competition in January. The three-day even begins today, and continues through Wednesday where scores from all three episodes will be combined to determine if it is man or machine who wins.
The episodes were filmed on location at IBM’s corporate headquarters in upstate New York, on a specially crafted Jeopardy set.
In a sort of tongue-in-cheek response, Jennings said in a news conference, “One of the first things I thought was, ‘This time, I’m not just playing to pay my mortgage or something, or to feed my kid’s college fund, I’m actually sort of representing 7 billion human beings against our new machine tyrants.”
Although the episodes were filmed last month, there have been no leaks about who won. So you’ll have to tune in for yourself.