IT WAS not quite a foregone conclusion, but all the smart money was on the machine.
Since the first rehearsal over a year ago, it had become apparent that Watson—a supercomputer built by IBM to decode tricky questions posed in English and answer them correctly within seconds—would trounce the smartest of human challengers. And so it did earlier this week, following a three-day contest against the two most successful human champions of all time on “Jeopardy!”, a popular quiz game aired on American television. By the end of the contest, Watson had accumulated over $77,000 in winnings, compared with $24,000 and $21,600 for the two human champions. IBM donated the $1m in special prize money to charity, while the two human contestants gave half their runner-up awards away. Read the rest of this entry »