Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

IBM "Jeopardy" Challenge Day 2: Very Different From Day One

When we last left our human heroes, one of them had drawn even while another was far behind the supercomputer Watson in a match of the uniquely human game of “Jeopardy.” The computer was winning raves for holding its own against the game’s best human players.

Day two was very different. Watson dominated, winning nearly every buzzer and answering nearly every “Jeopardy” clue put to it, correctly. The first segment was all Watson, and it would be like that all night. The computer jumped out to an enormous lead, quickly breaking last night’s tie, soon running up a score of $21,035 to $5,000 for Brad Rutter and $2,000 for Ken Jennings, the scores they had at the close of play last night.

One question about French art stumped all three players, including the computer, and so all three lost the same amount of money on the board.

And at one point, Watson drew an early Daily Double about the designer of Emanuel and Pembroke Colleges. The answer was “Sir Christopher Wren.” Watson wagered $6,435, an oddly precise amount that drew some laughter from the crowd. Watson answered correctly, and the room erupted in applause, and a shot of the crowd showed IBM researcher David Ferrucci, widely seen as the public face of the research team that built and worked on Watson, looking something like a proud father. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano was also visible in audience shots.

At another point, when asked a question about items stolen from a museum in a certain city in 2003, Watson had only 32 percent confidence in what it thought was the best answer, which was Baghdad. It said, “I’m going to guess,” before giving the right answer.

By the end of the second segment, Watson’s lead was bordering on the ridiculous–$36,881, to $5,400 for Rutter and $2,400 for Jennings. One interesting moment occurred when all three players passed on a question about a painting stolen in Argentina in 1987. It all came down to Final Jeopardy. The clue was in the category of U.S. Cities: This city’s largest airport is named for a World War II hero, and its second largest airport is named for a World War II battle.

Here the story takes a surprising turn. And once again we’re fortunate to the have the color commentary of Stephen Baker, my old Businessweek colleague and author of “Final Jeopardy,” a book on the inside story of the IBM Jeopardy Challenge. He witnessed the match in person and spent months reporting on the run up to this event. I recorded our Skype call.

In the audio clip below, Baker starts out describing the strange turn the game took at the end during Final Jeopardy, where Watson displays at once how it can be both stupid and smart at the same time.

Steve Baker Talks About The Day 2 Of the IBM Jeopardy Challenge by ahess247

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