Final Jeopardy: Can a Machine Think?
In early April of 1990, I was a contestant on Jeopardy. If you were watching back then, I was the “Supercomputer Programmer from Aloha, Oregon” who won three games and $38,000 and then lost - badly - in the fourth. So there’s quite a bit of personal history tied in with the news last week that a supercomputer from IBM, called Watson, had beaten two all-time Jeopardy! winners, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, in a practice round for the three-day charity competition on Feb. 14, 15 and 16.
A few weeks ago, I predicted that Jennings would win, Watson would place a close second and Rutter would place third in the overall contest, and I’m sticking with that prediction in spite of Watson’s first-place finish in the practice round last week. When I put on my handicapper’s hat, the scores of the practice round - $4,400 for Watson, $3,400 for Jennings and $1,200 for Rutter - are consistent with my assessment that Jennings and Watson are evenly matched and that Rutter is unlikely to win.