If you saw the second night of Jeopardy’s Watson vs Man and Watson’s flat out dominance, I wouldn’t blame you for being a little bit sad about humanity. Thankfully it’s not straight to SkyNet for Watson, turns out the machine is a little unreliable and prone to crashes.
PBS was filming a documentary on Watson and was around for the taping of the show. To quote Michael Bicks, one of the PBS producers, “[Watson]crashed a bunch of times it took over four hours to tape the show – most of the delays were due to crashes”. Four hours to tape a half hour show is a pretty long time, especially considering that normal Jeopardy shows can get done in under two hours.
Ken Jennings was also at the taping of the show (if you didn’t notice him) and he dropped some fun factoids in a Q&A he did over at the Washington Post. Apparently, the crowd was all from IBM so they were out for human blood, Jennings said:
“It was an all-IBM crowd: programmers, executives. Stockholders all! They wanted human blood. It was gladiatorial out there. The stage had a big Watson logo on it too. This was definitely an away game for humanity.”
Jennings seem to be frustrated at Watson’s excellence at buzzing and finally knows what it feels like to go against a ‘Ken Jennings’:
“Watson does have a big advantage in this regard, since it can knock out a microsecond-precise buzz every single time with little or no variation. Human reflexes can’t compete with computer circuits in this regard.”
“Knowing lots of answers but being a millisecond slow on the buzzer is indeed very frustrating. To the 149 Ken Jennings losers back in 2004: if you are cheering for Watson right now, I forgive you.”
That’s because the team that built Watson actually pattered the machine off of Jennings himself:
“The Watson team told me two things after the match: that the idea for Watson was born after watching my 2004 streak on Jeopardy, and that they watched LOTS of tape of me while honing its skills. “There’s a lot of you in Watson,” one guy said.”