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Jeopardy Results: It’s Elementary My Dear Watson.

February 17, 2011

Last nights conclusion of a three night machine vs. man showdown gave the Jeopardy champs a run for their money. Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter ended with totals in the $20,000s while IBM’s Watson stole the show with a whopping $77,147. Even with Watson’s flaws, IBM managed to create a Jeopardy champ. Have our worst fears been realized? Was my Terminator prediction true? Are machines taking over the world? Well maybe not the world but Watson has managed to take top rank on one of Americas favorite shows. A part of the reason people watch Jeopardy, aside from boosting our own intellectual ego, is to cheer on with the contestants. We get excited and frustrated along with them, even shouting at the tv as if they could hear us. So while this event was both historic and amazing to watch, I don’t see it becoming something fans will want to continually see. Perhaps Watson could learn a few things from Johnny 5 ( or Number 5 for the less devoted fans).

So what’s next for the new IBM star? According to an article I read in USA Today, John Laird of the University of Michigan, a computer intelligence expert, claims “Watson was designed to play Jeopardy very well (but) could have a challenge to move this to other fields”.  IBM recently announced partnerships with several universities, including MIT, to explore new ideas on using Watson’s quick and in-depth trivia knowledge. David Ferrucci of IBM believes Watson’s future use at the company can help in automated questions in the healthcare and legal aid industries. If they could get Watson to do something about those horrible automated customer services lines, now that would be amazing. Seriously, how many times can you say customer service nicely before having a sudden breakdown?

My favorite quote from the whole article came from Andrew Meltzoff from the University of Washington in Seattle. Andrew, an expert in bot-human interaction (I didn’t even know that was a real field) commented on Watson by saying, “The Jeopardy event is hype for humans. The computer doesn’t care. The debate is clue to what makes us human”. Aside from the intellectual part of the man vs. machine debate, many wonder if we lose part of what makes us human when machine wins. For now humanity is safe, but if Watson starts recruiting Macs and building an army, we may have a problem.

At GAI ( we would love to hear your thoughts on Watson’s Jeopardy win. Not computer friendly? No worries, the staff at Gunwel are proud computer finance and tax nerds. Consider us your financial Geek Squad working at Watson-like speed. So come in or give us a call at 212-979-6830. We are open Monday-Friday 8am-8pm and Saturdays 8am-5pm. Walk-ins are always welcome!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alberto Sanchez MD permalink
    March 9, 2011 6:52 pm

    In 1980, in my first year of medical school, I read in the newspaper in Leon, Mexico, about a computer operated robot performing a Tonsillectomy in Japan, and at that time I stopped having any doubts I had about the predictions of Issac Asimov, Arthur C Clark and others like them. I had already learnt that doctors were only technicians, like refrigerator technicians but just with a larger database of technical knowledge. That was part of reason later on I chose psychiatry as my working field because I thought that working in evaluating and treating emotional-partially-rational humans was probably going to be one of the last things computers were going to fought to do.

  2. March 9, 2011 6:58 pm

    Thank you for your input. I also do believe that emotion and rationalization are skills no computer can be programmed to learn no matter how faulted we humans are with them ourselves. I’m glad you read the blog, keep reading!

    Have a Great Day.

    • March 9, 2011 7:37 pm

      Thanks for your kind wodrs. However, even if I disapoint you I want to clarify that I did not say that computers can not learn to evaluate and respond to human emotions, but that I thought that it will take longer for computers to be able to do that as compared to following straight forwad explicit logical reasoning. Emotions seem to be only biological algorithms that evolved to deal rapidly with stereotypical situations such as danger or reproduction. I can not think of any reason that may prevent non-organic brains (computers) from equaling and surpassing humans in any area.

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