December 14, 2010; Source: Orange County Review | As much as we’d like to think there are some things humans can still do better than machines, there’s a reason to root for the IBM computer that plans to take on two flesh and blood challengers in an upcoming “Jeopardy” competition. If “Watson,” a computer program, beats Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter—the game show’s most successful champions—IBM will donate the $1 million prize to charity.
To their credit, Jennings and Rutter also say if they beat “Watson,” named for IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, they’ll give away half their winnings. The show will air over three days, Feb. 14-16, during which man and machine will compete in two games.
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According to the Associated Press, Jennings holds the record for the longest “Jeopardy” winning streak—some 74 games in a row during the 2004-2005 season. Rutter is the show’s biggest money winner, collecting some $3.3 million. To prepare for the event, “Watson” has already played some 50 games against past “Jeopardy” champions, but no one at IBM or associated with the show will reveal the computer’s win/loss record.
Beyond the potential boon to some lucky charities if “Watson” wins, IBM also says longer term it’s hoping the technology that provides the computer’s “intelligence” can ultimately be put to good use helping doctors diagnose illnesses, among other things.—Bruce Trachtenberg