What is Watson?
Merely the latest Jeopardy stud, that's what. But, unlike every other game show winner in history, this one won't celebrate with champagne - heck, it doesn't even need to eat. Watson is a robot, and, thanks to this week's Jeopardy matches, the IBM-created robot is taking center stage as the 'bot besting the big winners.
Two of Jeopardy's biggest winners, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, are squaring off against Watson, in what is surely reviving memories of the 1996 chess match between IBM's Deep Blue, and world champion Gary Kasparov. At the time, the audacity of a machine besting a human was seen as stunning and ridiculous. The look on Kasparov's face was one of utter disbelief.
But think about it now: If, after the three-day tournament is over (OK, it was already shot, but all involved have been sworn to secrecy), Watson has bested his human competition, will people really be that surprised? Given the amount of gob stopping technology we all carry around in our pockets, and how much we all depend on that technology, is it really all that stunning to think that a computer can beat any of us at a gameshow?
I normally don't do this, but it was fun to follow Twitter while the first Jeopardy episode was on. Comments like, "The IBM computer on Jeopardy is killing it so far," and "IBM Watson is totally dominating the humans on Jeopardy," not to mention the inevitable "Can't wait for IBM's Watson to appear on Jersey Shore." How long is it, after all, until Watson gets his (her?) own reality show?
IBM says years and millions of dollars went into developing Watson, who finished the first night's competition in a tie for first. It's both cool and humbling to watch the robot in action. Reminds me of all the super-intelligent technology we use every day - to find answers.Scott plans to tune in. He's on Twitter: @scottbudman