It was man versus machine, and the latter won. The IBM supercomputer known as Watson triumphed over human competitors to win a special edition of the US quiz show, Jeopardy.
This week’s challenge shows that IBM – which turns 100 this year – is still at the forefront of the information technology industry.
Watson trounced Jeopardy‘s finest Ken Jennings, a 74-time winner of the popular trivia show and Brad Rutter, a 20-time champion. IBM pledged that the $1 million prize money would be donated to charity.
“There’s no shame in losing to silicon,” wrote Jennings on Slate after the match. “Playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy game, though out of the corner of my eye I could see that the middle player had a plasma screen for a face.”
Watson was named after Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, and the assistant to Sherlock Holmes. Watson proved it’s even more advanced than Deep Blue, IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer that beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, because of its ability to find answers from ambiguous clues.
An Israeli team helped build the supercomputer. In an earlier interview with Israel21c, researchers David Carmel and Dafna Sheinwald from IBM Israel highlighted the real reason for developing Watson. Not to win game shows, but rather to use the technology to improve health care delivery and smartphone technology.
The Israeli researchers, along with IBM scientists in the United States, China and Japan, clearly proved their ingenuity, progress, and communication this week. Indeed, the big winner in this contest was science.