Were you as disappointed as I was when the computer, Watson, beat Rutter and Jennings on Jeopardy tonight? I naturally first cheered for Ken Jennings because he is from my home state, but I also cheered for Rutter because well, he’s human.
In some ways, it’s kind of like cheering for your team, and if I may say so, Watson, got home court advantage for all three games. According to the NY Times, the show was recorded at the TJ Watson Research Laboratory. The audience? IBM executives and company clients. When they showed the studio audience, all I saw were suits. Naturally, they cheered quite loudly when Watson got Daily Double questions right.
It was also frustrating to see that Watson did not have to manually push the buzzer like the other two contestants did. That is half of the trick. Frequently, a contestant will know the answer, but he must time his buzzing in to be the fastest after Trebek has read the question. If you are a little too early or too late, you lose. Watson didn’t have to deal with this challenging part of the game–his programmed timing gave him a huge advantage.
The computer, I really did not like him–I mean, I did not like it. I did not like his screen or his globe like face that had no features. There was no expression or movement on his face except for some random scribbling. I remember one of my favorite Jeopardy contestants who screamed and jumped and went hysterical when she won. Watson couldn’t do that. At the end of the game, Jennings and Rutter were goofing around, mocking Watson, actually. Watson didn’t catch any of this. Socially clueless, if you as me.
Do I feel threatened by this machine? Well, a little. I’ve always dreamed of winning Jeopardy, and if a computer can beat the two best contestants that have ever played on Jeopardy, it sort takes the wind out of my sails. It reminds me of the time when a piano tuner offered to install an entire computer system in my piano that could play music for us. All I could think was, “And how many years of piano lessons did I take?”
I don’t want to feel replaceable. I want to feel that my hard work and dedication means something. And if am going to dedicate a big part of live to learning trivia, and there’s a computer out there that can outgun me, it makes my pursuit seem, well, a little trivial.
Perhaps I’m also a little bugged because while there’s as lot of stuff swirling around in my ADHD brain, I don’t have it organized in the best filing system up there. Sometimes, it takes me a few seconds to retrieve my answer. Watson needed like one millioneth of a second. Is that really that important? It is if you’re playing Jeopardy.