Last week, IBM’s supercomputer software Watson made headlines when it competed against two humans on the popular trivia gameshow Jeopardy!…and won.
My first thought immediately turned to the famous line from the 1984 film Terminator:
They say it got smart.
In other words, OH NOES! A PENDING ROBOT APOCALYPSE!!!
But before I could start stockpiling weapons, ammo, and canned food — while reminding myself that I need to begin training Claire the way Big Daddy trained Hit-Girl in the movie Kick-Ass — I read an article in Wired’s GeekDad titled “Why Watson’s Jeopardy! Win Is Mostly Meaningless — By a Former Contestant” which assured me that the computer’s triumph over humans on the show is little more than a publicity stunt. For instance:
It just doesn’t matter much if you know every one of the correct responses if you can’t ring in before your opponents who know only 90% of them [. . .] (The system works such that if two or three people click at the exact same time, nobody gets it, so you have to keep clicking as rapidly as you can and hope you will be the lone clicker before either of your opponents is.)
[. . .]
It should be obvious that when it comes to reacting quickly and doing something repeatedly, there’s just no way a supercomputer loses to a pair of humans….
So there is no need to worry about a robot apocalypse, at least not yet.
And if Watson were to compete on Jeopardy! again, we can always outsmart it, as seen in the hilariously geeky cartoon below: