Friday, January 18, 2019

At the End of Game 1 Watson Takes a Commanding Lead

by D. E. Carson (writer), , February 15, 2011

Credit: Image Credit: Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.
Jeopardy host Alex Trebek with Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and Watson's Avatar

IBM's supercomputer ran away with Double Jeopardy!

Tonight was round two of the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge. The only way to describe it is as Mr. Spock would say, "fascinating." Going into Double Jeopardy, Watson and Brad Rutter were tied for first at $5,000 each with Ken Jennings in second with $2,000. But that didn't stop IBM's Watson from running away with Double Jeopardy -- even scoring both Daily Doubles for the second round. Watson showed that it must have a bit of a sense of humor when betting $6,435 on one Daily Double. When the camera cut to host Alex Trebek, his response was a blank look followed by, "I won't ask where that figure came from."

It made me ask, "Where does Watson get some of its information?"

By that I mean, how does it know how much to bet on a daily double? Why such an odd amount of money? Most contestants bet in even hundreds or thousands. How did Watson know it selected a Daily Double? How did it pick its categories and how did it know tonight to select a clue, answer the question and then to say, "Same category, for $1600"? Was this ALL Watson? Or is there someone there to "guide" Watson along. Oh sure, Watson answers the question and Watson rings in on the buzzer, but what exactly drove its line of thinking? Again, the questions were selected from all over the board and Jennings and Rutter were both left spinning to keep up.

When Watson hit the first Daily Double, it wagered the odd amount but came up with the correct answer, but blew the next question answering Piccaso. But Jennings and Rutter both failed as well answering "cubism" and "impressionism" respectively. The correct response was "what is modern art?"

Watson fared better on the second Daily Double, but it was certainly a struggle. The clue given said, "The city from whose national museum the ancient Lion of Nimrud ivory relief went missing along with a lot of other stuff in 2003." The graph showing Watson's levels of confidence was displayed showing only a 32% confidence level in its answer. The synthesized voice said, "I'm going to guess and say Baghdad." The answer was correct. But for a computer to "guess"... who ever heard of a computer guessing at anything? But then again, how many computers can "think" the way Watson can? Remember, this massive computer system isn't allowed to connect to the Internet to search for answers. It has to rely on its hard drive storage just like humans have to rely on their brains.

The highlight of the night came, though, when it was time for Final Jeopardy. Going in, Jennings was in third place with $2,400. Brad Rutter was in second with $5,400 and Watson was alone in first place with $36,681 -- quite a point spread, even for Jeopardy! The category for Final Jeopardy was U.S. Cities. The answer was:

This city's largest airport is named for a World War II hero. Its second largest is named for a World War II battle.

Because Jennings was in third place, his answer was revealed. It was correct. He wagered everything he had to end the game still in third place but had $4,800. Rutter wagered $5,000 of his $5,400. His answer was also shown to be correct bringing his total to $10,400. Then came Watson's turn. Watson's answer was incorrect. It wrote, "What is Toronto??????" The moment its answer was revealed, viewers could hear multiple groans and expressions of disappointment from the audience -- apparently some of the people who worked on the Watson project were there to witness Watson's error. But then Trebek asked, "How much did you wager?" When the amount, a paltry $947 was revealed, Trebek responded, "Oh you sneak!"

Watson finished the game with $35,734, again leaving me to ask, "Why $947?" Why not an even $5,000? Did Watson determine the amount to wager on its own or was there someone there calling that shot? And that avatar. It did not dawn on me until tonight that it looks eerily like the giant red light from HAL...although Watson's is green and flashes in time to its speech synthesizer. The dollar amounts were pretty random leaving me to consider that Watson did make these wagers on its own.

Tomorrow will be the final night of the three game tournament of Man Vs Machine. One has to assume that it will be a regular game without the additional commentary from Trebek or IBM. The final scores from tonight will be added to tomorrow's scores to determine who wins the $1 million first prize. Right now it's looking like Watson will take home the check...or will it? After all, it seemed to be unsure of its own answer to tonight's Final Jeopardy question: Chicago.

About the Writer

D. E. Carson is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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