Since 1986 - Covering the Fastest Computers in the World and the People Who Run Them

Language Flags
February 16, 2011

Supercomputer Pummels Jeopardy Champs

Michael Feldman

Jeopardy whizzes Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter got thrashed by IBM Watson on national television Tuesday night in the second round of the man vs. machine exhibition match. The computer decisively won the first game of the match (which began on Monday night) with a total of $35,734. Rutter ended with $10,400, while Jennings managed just $4,800.

In the second round of the game under Double Jeopardy, Watson was able to rack up the numbers twice as fast and only faltered a few times. On the first answer, the machine nabbed $2,000, and never looked back. Jennings and Rutter could only look on and watch their swifter silicon-based counterpart beat them to the buzzer.

Jennings, in particular, appeared ready to answer a number of times, but only after Watson had already buzzed in. Toward the end of the match, both humans were squirming at their respective podiums as Watson built a commanding double digit lead.

The machine’s algorithmic-driven personality was on display at times, adding a touch of humor to the broadcast. When Watson hit the first Daily Double, instead of betting a nice round number, it wagered $6,435. The audience chuckled and Jeopardy host Alex Trebek deadpanned, “I won’t ask.” Watson answered the Daily Double correctly, much to the delight of Watson project lead David Ferrucci and the rest of the IBM’ers in the crowd.

When the computer hit the next Daily Double, Watson had some trouble processing the clue: THE ANCIENT “LION OF NIMRUD” WENT MISSING FROM THIS CITY’S NATIONAL MUSEUM IN 2003, ALONG WITH A LOT OF OTHER STUFF. Its top rated answer, Baghdad, had only a 32 percent confidence level — below its normal 50 percent threshold. I’ll take a guess,” Watson responded. “What is Baghdad?” Which was correct.

One of the more impressive displays of Watson’s algorithmic smarts was revealed by the clue, IT CAN MEAN TO DEVELOP GRADUALLY IN THE MIND OR TO CARRY DURING PREGNANCY, to which Watson correctly answered, “What is gestate?” The system had managed to break apart the clue into two distinct phrases and then have the intelligence to correlate them.

The computer’s only real embarrassing gaffe came near the end of the match in the Final Jeopardy round. The category was U.S. Cities and the clue was ITS LARGEST AIRPORT IS NAMED FOR A WORLD WAR II HERO; ITS SECOND LARGEST FOR A WORLD WAR II BATTLE. Oddly enough, Watson responded with the name of a Canadian city, “What is Toronto?” Apparently, the IBM engineers need to tweak the geography algorithms a bit.

Both Jennings and Rutter had responded correctly (“What is Chicago?”), wagering nearly all of their meager earnings. That ended Jennings and Rutter’s night with $4,800 and $10,400 respectively. But it wasn’t nearly enough. Watson had bet only $957 on Final Jeopardy, finishing with $35,734. Game over.

Here is the first part of last night’s show. Jump to 4:48 if you want to skip the IBM Watson infomercial (although honestly, it’s pretty slick) and other introductory fluff:

To watch the second half of the show, go here.

SC14 Virtual Booth Tours

AMD SC14 video AMD Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Cray SC14 video Cray Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Datasite SC14 video DataSite and RedLine @ SC14
Click to Play Video
HP SC14 video HP Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
IBM DCS3860 and Elastic Storage @ SC14 video IBM DCS3860 and Elastic Storage @ SC14
Click to Play Video
IBM Flash Storage
@ SC14 video IBM Flash Storage @ SC14  
Click to Play Video
IBM Platform @ SC14 video IBM Platform @ SC14
Click to Play Video
IBM Power Big Data SC14 video IBM Power Big Data @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Intel SC14 video Intel Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Lenovo SC14 video Lenovo Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Mellanox SC14 video Mellanox Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Panasas SC14 video Panasas Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Quanta SC14 video Quanta Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Seagate SC14 video Seagate Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video
Supermicro SC14 video Supermicro Virtual Booth Tour @ SC14
Click to Play Video