UPDATE: Looks like the computer crushed Jennings last night. Tune in this evening to see how our local Jeopardy! champ fairs in round two!
Local “Jeopardy!” celebrity Ken Jennings has returned to face his most intimidating opponent to date: a supercomputer. In a special three day tournament, Jennings, along with fellow champion Brad Rutter, will go head to man-made head against Watson, the IBM machine named after its founder that has been four years in the making. In terms of credentials, Edmonds-born Jennings (who made our Nerd Hall of Fame) has a lot to offer: he holds the trivia game show’s records for longest winning streak (74 games in 2004) and highest total winnings in non-tournament play (roughly $2.5 million). Watson, however, is loaded with thousands of algorithms that analyze possible interpretations of a clue against its mega-database, the equivalent of about 1 million books. It also has the advantage of “pushing” the buzzer quicker than is humanly possible once it has processed the clue (a 3 second task). The match is hyped to be extremely close, so tune in to cheer for our species (or to be wowed by the rise of A.I.) on February 14-16 on KOMO 4 at 7:30 p.m. In addition to the stakes of humankind’s superior status, the grand prize is $1 million, half of which Jennings has promised to donate to Fremont-based charity VillageReach.
To dig deeper into Seattle’s nerd subculture, check out our local geek varietals as part of our current Nerd Issue; or if you’re keen on the story behind IBM’s quest to build the world’s smartest computer, check out NOVA’s documentary or technology writer Stephen Baker’s new book Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything.