Arik Hesseldahl

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IBM "Jeopardy" Challenge Day One Ends in a Tie

Day one of the three-day battle between the human brain and silicon on the game show “Jeopardy” ended in a tie.

The IBM supercomputer and human player, Brad Rutter, each had $5,000 on the scoreboard, while Ken Jennings, who had bested Watson in the much-publicized practice match, ended with $2,000.

Watson missed some questions and in interesting ways. At one point Watson repeated a wrong answer, the “1920s,” which Jennings had just said. Host Alex Trebeck referred to these as “weird little moments.”

Watson sprang to a huge lead early. By the first commercial break, Watson had $5,200 to Rutter’s $1,000, and $200 for Jennings. It began a serious run interestingly enough after hitting the Daily Double and making a bet. This is interesting in that Watson, in the practice match which it ultimately lost, showed a weakness in situations where betting was called for. This was a weakness that Jennings exploited to his benefit. This made it a surprise when Watson threw down and bet $1,000, more than it had on the board at the time.

I asked Stephen Baker (pictured), author of the forthcoming book on the match, “Final Jeopardy,” to call me after the episode aired for a little color commentary from the point of view of someone who was in the studio to witness it. Our conversation, which I recorded on Google Voice, is below.

Steve Baker Talks about The IBM Jeopardy Challenge, Day 1 by ahess247

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus