Man v. Machine

Ken Jennings: Watson IBM Whipped Me

The IBM computer Watson won $77,147 on Jeopardy!, beating Ken Jennings’ $24,000 and Brad Rutter’s $21,600. So what was the experience like? “The computer's techniques for unraveling Jeopardy! clues sounded just like mine,” Jennings writes on Slate. Listening for key words, combing memory, checking possible answers against contextual information—“This is all an instant, intuitive process for a human Jeopardy! player, but I felt convinced that under the hood my brain was doing more or less the same thing.” Still, Jennings says he started out too aggressively, and pinpoints key moment in man’s eventual failure against machine. “In the final round, I made up ground against Watson by finding the first "Daily Double" clue, and all three of us began furiously hunting for the second one, which we knew was my only hope for catching Watson. (Daily Doubles aren't distributed randomly across the board; as Watson well knows, they're more likely to be in some places than others.) By process of elimination, I became convinced it was hiding in the "Legal E's" category, and, given a 50-50 chance between two clues, chose the $1200 one. No dice. Watson took control of the board and chose "Legal E's" for $1600. There was the Daily Double. Game over for humanity.”