I.B.M. Supercomputer to Challenge “Jeopardy!” Stars

The ultimate show down between man and machine may end up looking a lot more like an encounter with HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey rather than with the murderous cyborgs depicted in the Terminator franchise if I.B.M. has its way.

The latest supercomputer from the legendary tech company is set to take on two of the most successful contestants in the history of the game show Jeopardy! next year, reports the New York Times.

Named "Watson" in honor of I.B.M. founder Thomas J. Watson Sr., the machine will face a stiff challenge in the forms of Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter over a three episode run set to air February 14-16, 2011. Jennings holds the record for the show's longest winning streak and is also the leading all-time leading money winner in American game show history while Rutter is undefeated in Jeopardy! competition and is the show's all-time money winner. 

The company believes that the machine represents an evolution in artificial intelligence. In a news release, I.B.M. said that having "Watson" get peppered with questions by Alex Trebek will be the "ultimate challenge" because "the game's clues involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities in which humans excel and computers traditionally do not."

If "Watson" wins the contest, the $1 million cash prize will be donated to charity. If one of the human contestants wins, they will keep half and the other $500,000 will go to charity.

Selected Reading: New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post

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