Are humans smarter than machines? Maybe just the supercomputers in the movies, but not in real life… right? Well, last week, an IBM supercomputer named Watson beat his human competition on Jeopardy!. That’s right WATSON won Jeopardy!. A computer beat its human competition.
Represented solely by its name on the contestant podium, Watson didn’t have much of a physical presence to the TV audience. However, it was WATSON’s knowledge that captured everyone’s attention and stole the show. The massive IBM supercomputer was designed to recognize language and synthesize answers from a preposterous amount of pre-programmed information. After analyzing a question, WATSON would process the information and could buzz in as fast as 10 milliseconds. Essentially making it impossible for humanoid competition to beat.
Video: WATSON Wins Jeopardy!
As a result, knowledge buffs and trivia nerds everywhere felt both threatened and proud of WATSON as it dominated night after night on Jeopardy!.
Watson’s Prize Winnings
By the end of the week, WATSON ended up taking home $1M in prize money. Half the money will go to the World Vision, a nonprofit that helps children in poverty, the other half to World Community Grid, IBM’s humanitarian supercomputer.
Can Watson Host Jeopardy!?
So if WATSON can win Jeopardy!, why can’t he host it? Alex Trebek should watch his back because the “machine brain” could be coming for him next. Imagine the headline: “Trebek replaced by WATSON, TV ratings Skyrocket.” Plus Watson gives all his money to charity. Trebek probably spends his millions on horse races and a celebrity mustache collection. Right? Actually, we have no idea.
Caroline Walker is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. She has worked in both the entertainment and the nonprofit sector. Walker holds a BA from the University of Southern California and an MA from New York University’s Gallatin School.