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Description: Watching these “Jeopardy!” episodes, I thought of one of cinema’s most devilish control freaks, HAL the computer from the sci-fi masterpiece, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I wondered what Watson, seemingly so genial as he played the game, would have said had someone ordered him to “open the pod bay doors.”


Date: Feb 17, 201

Note to self: Never play “Jeopardy!” with a supercomputer.

That’s a useful lesson for me or any mortal who has followed the Man vs. Machine faceoff this week on the popular trivia game show, where on Wednesday the second of two exhibition matches sealed the deal: Watson, the IBM-created megabrain, officially buried his flesh-and-blood opponents, veteran “Jeopardy!” champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

Watson’s winning score was $41,413 for the day ($77,147 for both games), while Jennings notched $19,200 ($24,000 overall) and Rutter reached $11,200 ($21,600 overall).
For crushing his rivals, Watson gets a total prize of $1 million, which IBM has said will go to the charities World Vision and World Community Grid.

The vanquished Jennings and Rutter get $300,000 and $200,000, respectively, half of which each said they would be donating to charities.  Read rest of story

Questions for discussion:

  • Watson, as IBM has dubbed the program, represents a breakthrough in the ability of computers to understand human language and scour massive databases to supply the most likely answer to questions — what applications can you forsee for this technology?

28 Responses to “Computer ties human as they square off on ‘Jeopardy!’”

  1. M.Lee

    For me, this technology is exciting. Many people have created bias opinions of AFI, but technology can only get more accurate and useful over time. The medical field is a very promising application to have this type of technology involved in. This technology can help doctors by decreasing wait time and narrow the scope of test (trial and error). The access to a patient’s information that could be stored in a database and could allow the computer to access patient’s records that aren’t available to the doctor, make connections between family members and possible symptoms that could have been missed by the doctor. In the future patients could communicate with a computer and avoid the doctor all together. This could allow doctors to lower unnecessary visits. Although currently you can not completely rely on the information and its accuracy, the possibilities are exciting. With growth this could be a true tool for many industries.

  2. Kuda

    Applications that could spring up from using this technology are in areas such as the medical field, military and police, and the civil engineering field. In fact such technology is might be already in use in some of these fields, maybe at different levels. In the medical field, as stated in the video, this technology or machines can be used to diagnose illnesses. I don’t know if it maybe similar, but such machines could be used to offer a degree of precision in the operating room; that is assisting surgeons to perform operations (but this shifts more to the side of robots). In the national defense side, this technology can be useful for extrapolating geographic information for remote places. In war situations this machine could be useful in getting information of relevant strategies. In civil engineering if the use of this technology is further introduced, it could facilitate construction of larger yet more stable buildings

  3. Mark McKee

    I actually watched one of the episodes of Jeopardy when Watson was playing. I found it extremely interesting that they can create a computer to answer questions that accurately. At that point I began thinking of different applications that this kind of technology could mean for mankind. Epically as technology advances over the years to come machines like Watson will only get smarter and more advanced. My main thought was on medical implications. Not only for diagnosing patients but for researching and furthering cures for different diseases such as cancer, diabetes etc. If they are able to input all the current data and research done thus far and the resources available on the planet for these cures, maybe in time a computer will be able to establish new connections that will enable leading edge health care. This may be decades away but it may also be closer then we think. The article and video does not mention what they will be doing with Watson when hes not playing Jeopardy. What does IMB plan to do with their creation now and for the future?

  4. Mike

    I didn’t watch any of the episodes, but I did follow the progress on YouTube. Although it wasn’t noted, the computer made several mistakes. The computer was sent a string with the question, while the player heard the question and then he would process it and his brain would give an order to his muscles to move his hand and ring the bell; the problem is that if we are talking about fairness, the battle wasn’t 100% equal. I am sure if there was a way to wire up the human contestants and have them be able to ring the bell and answer in an electric way (through pulses), the humans would’ve won.

    About the possible uses for it, they’re unlimited. Raging from artificial intelligence engines that can be used to troubleshoot complex systems, to improving research in education and scientific fields. When was the last time you thought of a definition that you couldn’t remember the word for. What if your life depended on knowing that definition? What if the lives of a commercial flight depended on how fast the pilot can have a question answered that relates to an engine problem or error… It could be quite useful, but as displayed in the jeopardy game, error could also be made and they could prove to be fatal!

  5. John

    I thought this was hilarious. Its so fast and right alot of the time, but it still needs a few tweeks, especially when it answers the same thing as the other contestant after a wrong answer. Very cool to see though, the medical applications alone for this machine are limitless. Imagine walking into a doctors office, being hooked up to a machine, and then the computer running through the conditions you could have. A very cool thought, but kinda scary at the same time. Another application this could have in the workplace could be for searching out competitors, their methods, technologies, most likely courses of action and many other possibilities. Although this contest wasn’t 100% fair, the computer’s ability to search thousands of databases so quickly for the most likely solution was pretty amazing. Once there is a way to confirm if the computer is 100% correct the applications for this technology will be the way of the future.

  6. Kevin Beauchamp

    I agree will the comments above that this technology has a vast amount of potential for so many industries. It’s already been highlighted on many commercials about the time efficiency of having smart computers store medical records of patients. An aspect that seems intriguing is if these computers could ever have the ability to make decisions that aren’t nessessarily quanitative. Major decisions aren’t make with statistics, but are guided with statistics. Those in charge of major companies get to the point of making conscious decisions from education and life experiences. Despite how far technology has advanced over the last 25 years, it seems unbelievable how a computer can make a conscious decision that humans make every day. This could be useful in the management section in deciding a business model, or in evaluating papers for a university course. It seems like in the future, this may be the norm for computers.

  7. Oloff Dreyer

    This was very interesting to see the speed at what Watson was able to communicate and come up with answers that were correct quite often. Although he may have a advantage searching through the thousands of databases at such a great speed, it was still amazing to see. I think this technology has endless amounts of possibility for the future. This technology can be particularly helpful in hospitals and meidical offices when there may be a shortage of doctors. I think that this would really help many people yet I’m sure it will be quite unerving having a computer diagnose your condition and tell you how to treat it. This technology would be able to be used almost anywhere in real life from the car wash to ordering at a drive through window. The possibilities are endless.

  8. Corey Bedard

    As good as Watson was at trumping a couple of champions in a trivia game, I think the technology for a super computer with the ability to make its own decisions is still many moons away. This computer has obviously been given every edge possible to make it as foolproof as it can be, yet still it managed to mistake Chicago and Toronto, and double state a wrong answer. Now imagine the frustration if a machine like this was working in say, a doctor’s office, as was stated above. “Well Watson, I have this rash and I tried Cream A here, but it didn’t work,” said Tom. “Try Cream A,” responds Watson as an exasperated Tom storms from the office. People might be willing to try a technology like this for sports betting or the stock market, like in the video we watched in class, but as for high-skilled labour, it seems as though most jobs are safe.

  9. Warren

    I could see this technology as a popular choice for libraries to tap into. To have the ability to answer any question automatically asked could have potential as a resource tool. Databases could be quickly accessed to bring up the exact results with a higher level of sophistication. Instead of getting the “no results” answer the technology digs deeper to find exactly what you asked for. Journal articles could be located instantly without stress. If you forgot the author’s name fear no more just ask and you shall receive.
    The concern with supercomputers is where will the technology go? If we give life to machines with their own thoughts and emotions in the future is that ethical? Certainly the film Bicentennial Man played by Robin Williams demonstrated the issues with this topic for a machine to feel. This is definitely a long way down the road and could seem farfetched, but maybe not as far as one might think.

  10. Caley Sinclair

    The real world implications are huge here. The idea of Watson, M.D. is a huge step that IBM could take with the technology. If each hospital had a Watson and could diagnose a patient’s problems in a matter of seconds. With no human error such as a doctor not considering extremely rare diseases, for example, lives could be saved. Beyond medicine, this type of computing can be used for every day tasks. Watson could be put into place in call centers, or even business analytics. Financial companies could use Watson for analytics, the legal profession could rely on Watson for research. These are all potential place for Watson to be put in place. Watson will be perfect for the boring and time consuming tasks many of us do not like to perform!

  11. J.E.

    Wow this is quite impressive. I really liked the idea of Watson helping out in the medical profession. I do not think he could every replace actual human doctors (at least not in my lifetime) but it would definitely be a helping tool to have. Watson would really be a great tool for anyone who needs to make big decisions. Whether it be doctors, politicians, judges pretty much anyone who needs to make big decisions a second opinion is always helpful. Another application that I would like to see something like this in is in professional sports. I think we need to get rid of the human emotion of refs and have maybe “Watson type” referees instead. There would never be any arguing about calls being made or not made and would change sports drastically. As far as when things like this will be implemented I do not think the technology is quite there yet and it will be quite a ways down the road.

  12. Rob C

    Seeing the outcome of Jeopardy`s two veteran champs (Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter) who have been notably the most successful individuals on the show, squared-up against IBM`s supercomputer creation Watson, was somewhat of a chilling result. It kind of brings those space-age movies closer to reality, where the scientist builds a supercomputer to help him carry out his biddings and the computer eventually becomes so self sufficient that it no longer takes commands but thinks on its own measures, just as humans do. And in the end the creation becomes the dominant force and no longer takes orders but gives them.

    Consider me crazy or weird but this honestly brings those thoughts to mind. As Watson answered question after question, occasionally fumbling up on the odd answer, IBMs creation had both Jennings and Rutter baffled and frustrated.

    But as this was just a friendly competitive outing experiment, it seems as though it is just the tip of the iceberg, with technology and its limited potential. And maybe, just maybe! Those space-age sci-fi movies with renegade supercomputers were not too far off of the future that lies ahead of us.

  13. Wendy Rivers

    I was very impressed with this new technology that IBM produced that I decided to watch the actual Jeopardy episodes. Watson was designed to answer questions meant for humans to answer without the use of the internet. This technology was especially interesting because Watson tries to understand slang and modern jargon. If this technology was developed for more useful area of expertise, such as health care, we might be able to become more efficient when diagnosing patients. However this technology would cost a great deal and require a large storage room to fit Watson and the two refrigerator sized fans to keep Watson cool. Hospitals that are able and willing to pay for this technology will have a very competitive advantage. However I can’t help but feel that if humans rely on technology such as Watson for the bulk of the information especially in the health department, that we will become too dependent and less knowledge will be required of us.

  14. Kim Berger

    A computer created by IBM such as Watson is an invaluable resource. It literally could be used for almost anything, with some special modifications. Whether it be gathering intelligence, the medical field, breaking codes, making tactical decisions in warfare or maneuvers, the possibilities are literally limitless. That being said, it most likely will be the most useful for decisions where a straight answer is needed, not one where a decision is required to be made weighing all possible alternatives and their outcomes. This type of decision will always have to be made by humans, no matter where the computer technology giants are possible of taking their supercomputers. This type of computer will be invaluable to the medical field, as an immediate answer is generated from a question. just imagine the possibilities if it were programmed with symptoms of diseases and other aspects of health-related issues. Instant, easy output and answers that can be trusted.

  15. Kendra

    Hello! Has nobody seen the films I,Robot? Does the possibility of out of control robots not deter people from only seeing the positive side of making robots? Or even in Austin Powers: The spy who shagged me… that has the lethal fambots?
    Yes, Watson isn’t made to fight, he has been made to understand human language and use databases to aid in answering questions. So Watson is “smart.” How long will it be until these “smart” robots become “sneaky, smart, militarized” robots? In my (just over) two decades of existence, I have seen computers go from taking up an entire desk, to being the size of a small book. I have seen robots go from furbees, to now answering questions using a database! Call me paranoid, but I see this technology being used and improved for military purposes. Which is great when national defense is the aim, but technologies such as these never end there: Iron Man anybody?

  16. Jolan Naismith

    At what point did the technology created by humans gain the ability to outsmart it’s creator? Some may find this technological development exciting and if used for positive peaceful means it indeed could become invaluable. I however am tentative to decorate for the party as something this powerful comes with great responsibility and innumerable potential ethical issues in the future. Sure it will help our national defense but isn’t it likely that other countries will soon be boasting similar if not better technology in their defense? Could this be the development of yet another “arms race”, not rocket ships or nuclear bombs but super human computers to essentially take the place of humans? I hope I am not the only one who is slightly nervous that on an already over populated planet with rising unemployment levels and no sign of poverty levels decreasing we hand over more control to “things”. Only time will tell whether or not we have created a “monster”.

  17. Nyle Watts

    I also did not watch any of these Jeopardy episodes but I did hear about them. I thought it was amazing how two elite Jeopardy champions were simply outclassed by a computer, but at the same time I can’t help but be excited at the potential that this sort of technology has. Obviously it still has some flaws that need to be worked out (such as repeating a wrong answer), but it could have endless uses in medical care, research, military, criminal justice, and engineering. It could be used to get quick answers when there is no time to consider all the alternatives. Only time will tell what this kind of technology could do for mankind.

    It kind of reminds me of those computer systems you see on science-fiction shows like Star Trek: you ask the computer a question and it gives you an immediate answer. Can’t help but wonder if this technology is a baby step towards making those sci-fi shows a reality. but again, only time will tell.

  18. Ashley H

    I think this new technology is exciting, and if we like it or not technology will keep advancing so might as well take advantage of it. Some people writing on this discussion are paranoid if they believe that robots are going to take over. The day a robot shaped like a computer screen destroys a city or kills me I will take back everything I am saying, but until then I think this “Watson” character is really interesting. If people started to create robots armed with guns and grenades (not the ones from Jersey Shore) then yes, it would be a little scary but I cannot foresee “Watson” being a terrorist of any kind; he simply wants to embarrass people on Jeopardy. I think this technology would be useful in hospitals or situations were you need answers fast (just like Jeopardy!) But who knows, maybe one day every office will have a Watson offspring.

  19. Travis Sedrovic

    While I agree with Jolan’s comments above that we should be wary of such a powerful machine and the implications that may come when reffering to another “arms race” among the worlds top technologically advanced countries, I do not forsee computers (or robots) being a problem when considering unemployment levels and possible jobs for human beings. I have always thought it would be great for a computer to be able to do little things faster than humans (The express line at the grocery store just isn’t fast enough for me). With the advancement in technology moving so quickly I hope to see some positive outcomes for little jobs such as scanning groceries. Will it take away a job from someone? Sure, but that job is a minimun-wage, low-skilled job that anyone can do, it opens up many more possibilities for people to get out and create or do something truly productive. Maybe the cashier will be jobless for a couple weeks, but if he/she is truly motivated and WANTS to be working, they will find a job that will benefit themselves and the world better than just scanning a barcode.

  20. Teigen C.

    I can’t believe that nothing like this has ever been done before. With the amount of information that internet, computers and technology have to offer, there is no way that any individual will ever be able to keep up. It is just a fact of life. The possibilities are endless with regards to what information is out there. I’m not shocked at all that the computer beat the two human players. This whole experiment is exciting. The fact that computers are now able to manipulate information is a great step for the future. In my opinion, I think it would be cool to see more computerized applications.. robots.. or whatever else you want to call them. I think the technological advancements are endless! The biggest issue is how far to push this advancement. As mentioned earlier, it is still important to maintain a human lifestyle. Hopefully these technologies will only be used to advance quality of life, and not get completely out of hand!

  21. Katelynne Swenson

    I thought this was really an interesting video. Surprising that this has never been done before! I’m sure that it can have many applications in our everyday life. It probably already has come in to play many times with the majority of the population not even realizing it. As one of the news casters said, it could easily have its useful place in the medical world, as well as many other places. I’m sure a computer of this type could easily take the job of someone, as computer technologies have done before, but I wouldn’t worry too much about technology replacing all human jobs. The need for direct human to human contact is something irreplaceable in many facets of a job, and this is something that technology cannot replace. I think the future will be interesting in where a technology like this can be placed.

  22. A.S.

    Being a fan of Jeopardy, my initial reaction to Watson was pessimistic in that it might have created for an unfair playing field, where the computer might have had a distinct advantage over human intelligence. But once I watched one of the episodes, and Watson showed some signs of humanism when answering some questions incorrectly, my attitude changed towards the IBM-created super human computer. In fact, I was somewhat intrigued as to how far technology has advanced in that we are now competing against our own creation. Nonetheless, the whole system of artificial intelligence, expert systems, and speech recognition is way beyond my imagination.
    However, there are many ethical issues and questions to be answered surrounding this topic. As technology is already replacing some jobs, to what extent will super computer programs such as Watson be a competitive threat in the workforce, and how can it be controlled?

  23. JJ

    I was unaware of this particular event on jeopardy, maybe because I dont watch it that often. But the idea i thought was very different and it shows us that everyday the technology we use as humans is becoming far more advanced than we had ever imagined. After, I watched parts from the episode and Watson the IBM machine actually answered questions like a human and had human answering capabilities. I would have to agree with A.S above in the aspect that there are many ethical issues that arise with such technological advancements. It is evident and true that computers are replacing jobs of us humans more and more everyday. However, I still feel that these ethical issues will continue to arise as the shift for new and innovative technologies continue to expand

  24. mike

    Implications for this type of development could be limitless. As technology gets cheaper and more complex, how long will it be before these types of computers are available to replace humans in more aspects of business then they are currently able to at a price that will make it an economically viable option? Right now these super computers are far too expensive and it may seem unreasonable for the near future, but as these systems get smaller and more standardized they could have the potential to perform tasks just as well, if not better than humans in many different areas. Is it possible in the future that a computer like this would be able to replace a whole room full of people at a call center, diagnosing and solving problems? Would it be possible to multitask and service multiple customers at a time eliminating wait times and quicker response times with solutions? This could be a major saving to companies if the technology were to become a more economically efficient solution rather then employing people to perform the same tasks.

  25. Dylan B

    The applications of this technology are truly endless. In essence this computing system has given us the ability to oversee all of the useful information on the internet. Watson can scan through billions of characters in miliseconds and put together an answer based on the best information provided. This technology blows my mind, and as soon as they can scale it down from 10-fridges to a blackberry sized version, I want one. Imagine knowing anything you want to just by speaking into your watson app…

  26. N.P

    Super computers know everything these days! Yes they have all the answers, but when it comes to emotional responses, it is totally lacking? As for applications that is can provide for us in the future, I believe it will allow us to better answer questions than ever before. Depending on the amount of info it is able to hold, maybe it will be able to decide which formulas work best with others? or how efficiently something can be created. I believe that the extent of this will not occur for quite some time however, the quickest offer it may bring is an easy way of achieving answers. Instead of going to where it leads you to 20 different sites, super computers might find your exact answer by filtering out all the unwanted.

  27. Megan

    Essentially, Watson is Google. The implications for this type of technology are vast and probably further than we understand. I have always been leery of AI because of the idea that they are computers who learn; learning machinery has the ability to get out of control, since there is no emotion attached to the computer, its thinking patterns are purely logical. This means that any movie where the computer takes over the humans is scarily accurate in theory. What I don’t understand is why you would take on a computer in a game of fact retrieval, when the computer was designed to retrieve facts!! However, some future applications for this kind of technology could include health diagnostics, court rulings based on precedent, or even scientific research in some areas. I find it hard to come up with FUTURE applications of this technology, when it is, in a nutshell, Google, which already exists and operates.

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