A common mortal might be able to best a computer in the strategic game of Chess, but when it comes to the TV game show Jeopardy, humanity is batting 0-for-1.
New video from Engadget shows IBM’s Watson question-answer supercomputer putting the hurt on Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings (74 wins in a row, during his heyday) and Brad Rutter ($3.25 million won, the most cash ever awarded on Jeopardy). Although there’s some reprieve for humanity’s two representatives: The filmed round was designed to give them a little practice against Watson, and it’s not as if the loss was a total blow-out. Watson ended up with $4,400 in Jeopardy cash (what will he/she/it purchase?), Jennings took second with $3,400, and Rutter placed third with $1,200.
We’ve reported on Watson’s actual “thought” process, as it wereÂ—the complicated method behind the computer’s analysis of a given Jeopardy question and formulation of the answer by running through its digital “brain” of more than 200 million pages’ worth of information contained within its databanks. The Linux-based machineÂ—like Jennings and Rutter–doesn’t get any help from the Internet during the actual competition, but the 80-teraflop machine still has to hit the same kind of signaling buzzer that any other Jeopardy contestant would activate to answer a question.
It also had to pass the official Jeopardy entrance exam too, just like any other player.
Game show pundits have noted, however, that Watson’s strategy in Jeopardy as-a-whole could give the machine a natural advantage over its human competitors. As the saying goes, “The only winning move is not to play,” and that’s exactly what Watson does if it can’t formulate a highly probable answer to a given Jeopardy question: It doesn’t guess.
Watson has about three seconds between the question’s beginning and the buzzing process to formulate an answerÂ—doing so by parsing its thoughts with around 100 different algorithms to generate a confident reply. Watson’s lead manger David Ferrucci , has previously said that this process could take a conventional desktop system around two hours to generate a reply.
As the video below shows, Watson doesn’t lose a single dollar during its Jeopardy matchÂ—neither does Jennings or Rutter, for what it’s worth. But while the system can spit out rote answers to general, fact-based questions without pause, Watson is hardly an infallible competitor. The system struggled most with Jeopardy’s fill-in-the-blank questions, which require one to correctly consider the text before and after the requested answer.