IBM computers pissed all over chess in 1997, when its monstrous whirring fun-killer, Deep Blue, defeated former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov. After IBM’s victory, the company retired Deep Blue in typical tough-guy jock fashion. Prove it once, refuse to prove it again.
Now IBM wants to beat the fun out of Jeopardy!, destroy another time-honored tradition, and attempt to finalize the contention that computers are smarter than humans and that, in a world run by billion-dollar tech companies, fun cannot survive.
Watson vs. Humanity … to the Death!
Between 2004 and 2005, Ken Jennings won 74 Jeopardy! games in a row, snatching the title of Awesomesauce Personified. His title was stolen by Brad Rutter, who, with almost $3.3 million in winnings, became Jeopardy!’s biggest all-time money winner in 2001.
Meanwhile, deep in IBM’s cavernous artificial-intelligence labs, researchers put on their codpieces and got cocky, developing a program they call “Watson” to challenge Jennings and Rutter to a blood-drenched duel to the death.
(Well, not really.)
Jennings and Rutter will each play against Watson over the course of three shows, airing February 14 through 16. The prize: $1 million cash. The fleshy winner gets to keep the loot; IBM will donate it to charity (though both Jennings and Rutter said they plan on giving half their winnings to charity as well).
Watson won’t show up underdressed—IBM plans on using an avatar to represent its soulless calculating abomination. Here are my top three suggestions:
IBM Rewrites Old Yeller
The format of Jeopardy! is far different from chess. Chess can be calculated; Jeopardy! relies heavily on puns, subtleties, riddles, and Alex Trebek’s haughty pronunciation corrections. So how does Watson stand a chance? IBM won’t tell.
The computer has already been tested in some 50 games against past Jeopardy! champions. But neither IBM nor Jeopardy! representatives would say what Watson’s record was.
Either Watson is kicking humanoid ass and reducing otherwise competent individuals to vomit-inducing slobs, or the tech is embarrassingly flubbing the show’s intricacies. Regardless, IBM is testing Watson’s performance to see how the tech can impact the future:
IBM is hoping the technology it exhibits will have some practical uses eventually, for instance helping doctors diagnose illnesses or solving customer problems at technical support centers.
Hey IBM. Here’s a tip. Help doctors. Simplify customer service. Stop screwing with our mirth.