Wednesday, February 16, 2011


For the last three nights, an IBM computer has been kicking the shit out of Jeopardy's two all-time biggest winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.  "Watson," as it's called, outearned the two of them combined. 

This is supposed to be a landmark moment in human history, akin to "Deep Blue" beating Gary Kasparov in chess, another example of artificial intelligence software that can outperform humans.

I'm about to call something here.  I'm about to call SHENANIGANS!

Anybody who watches regularly knows that the key to Jeopardy is how fast you can buzz in.  All IBM has really proven is that they've created a computer that can buzz in faster than two humans.  And, true to form, Jennings and Rutter spent the past three nights in agonizing frustration that they were being beaten to the punch, just like they did routinely to others in their long championship runs.  It was pretty obvious that, like Watson, they both knew the answers to just about every clue.  I don't for a second believe this means Watson has more AI than two brainiacs.  I'm much more impressed by "Deep Blue," which had to analyze chess moves and decide what to do next in real time.  And "Deep Blue" was 14 years ago.

It's impressive that they've created software that can interpret natural speech.  But it's not as impressive as IBM wants you to believe.

1 comment:

  1. As you said, just a fast buzz-in attached to a search engine. The true winners to this over publicized advertisement were the charities that benefited.