Humans shamed in round two of Jeopardy! showdown

Slippery when wetware

The second round of the Jeopardy! showdown pitting humanity against IBM's Watson supercomputer did not go so well for the carbon-based lifeforms, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. If the IBM machine was capable of diabolical laughter, it would have let out a rather lengthy cackle.

This was the middle round of the three-part Jeopardy tournament airing this week on American television, and Watson was generally quicker to the buzzer than even Jennings, who is legendary for being faster than most humans. He once racked up a 74-game winning streak on the trivia game show.

At the end of yesterday's round one, Jennings had \$2,000, Watson had \$5,000, and Rutter had pulled even with Watson at \$5,000. In round two, the clues were a little harder, and the values for each response double. Watson correctly answered 13 of the first 15 questions, Jennings answered one, and all three contestants answered one incorrectly.

At the commercial break, Watson had amassed \$23,881, after hitting two "Daily Doubles", where contestants choose the amount they want to bet on their response. The machine chose rather bizarre bets of \$6,435 and \$1,246. The way Watson was playing, the machine should have bet much more, but apparently, it's a tad cautious. Jennings had \$1,200 and Rutter had \$3,400 at the commercial break, and they were clearly frustrated by the machine's speed.

Here's how the game played out:

Watson answered ten more clues correctly, and it headed into the Final Jeopardy segment with \$36,681. All three players were stumped on one question, and both Jennings and Rutter answered two more questions correctly, giving them \$2,400 and \$5,400.

During Final Jeopardy!, the game host, Alex Trebek, offers a single clue, and players have 30 seconds to record their answer. They can bet all or a portion of their accumulated money. The clue was: "Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle."

Jennings bet his entire kitty on his response, "What is Chicago?," which is correct. That boosted his score to \$4,800. Rutter also chose Chicago, but bet only \$5,000, bringing his total to \$10,400. Watson admitted it was unsure with the question "What is Toronto????" But it bet only \$947, so the supercomputer ended up with \$35,734 as round two came to a close. ®

More from The Register

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018