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IBM's Watson tied with human in Jeopardy! match up

Watson (the one in the middle) played hundreds of practice rounds like this one against real humans before last night's game.
via Flickr
Watson (the one in the middle) played hundreds of practice rounds like this one against real humans before last night's game.

Last night IBM's "Watson" computer took on two human Jeopardy! champions (Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter), with the result at the end of the first round being a human-machine tie.  Kudos to Brad for defending the human race.

PC Mag's Samara Lynn dissects where Watson went wrong, most notably, offering a wrong answer - after someone else had already offered the same wrong answer:

Watson's most obvious gaffe was its inability to recognize when an answer had already been given. One of two of the all-time Jeopardy! champions pitted against the super-machine, Ken Jennings, answered a question incorrectly with, "What is 1920s." Watson repeated the same answer. Steve Camepa, IBM's general manager of global media and the entertainment industry explained that "Watson only takes his input from the question board so the fact that somebody else gave the same answer doesn't factor into what Watson says. He can't hear what the other players are saying, but maybe that's a feature we can add in the future."

Martin Ford, writing at Fortune, has a doomsday scenario about Watson's achievements:

The technologies that power Watson will likely find their way into a variety of software applications and robots that can compete for both high and low skill jobs. As artificial intelligence software improves and hardware becomes dramatically faster and more affordable over the coming decade, job creation in both low and high skill occupations risks falling short of expectations. And employers in a wide range of industries may increasingly choose technology over people. Few, if any, economists seem willing to acknowledge that scenario, but if it does come to pass, what we consider unacceptable levels of unemployment today could become the new normal tomorrow.

And Nancy Dooling at the Press & Sun-Bulletin has a round-up of what people said on the Internet about the game. Here's a sample:

Is this Watson playing Jeopardy thing such a great idea? Have the good people at IBM seen a single 80s sci-fi movie? Isn't this where things start to go terribly, terribly wrong. Next thing you know Joshua will hook up to Skynet to send Roy Batty back in time to kill Johnny Five. We don't have Neo to save humanity, we have Keanu. And he's not going to do so well in a game of Jeopardy.

Tune in tonight for double jeopardy and final jeopardy, and the exciting answer to the question: do we have a new machine overlord?

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