Jeopardy match placing Watson versus two human beings created an unfair playing field and that was a shame

Posted on February 20, 2011


I love technology. I especially love when technology pushes the envelope. I love that Watson is a massive database of facts and information that can be applied to make our society smarter. However, the strength of Watson was not truly showcased given the less than level playing field.

When reading that last statement you may have thought to yourself, “What was unfair, a computer competing against a human being?” Not the point at all. I have no issue with a computer challenging a human being. So, what gives?

Jeopardy is a relatively simple game to understand. Dollars are awarded to the first individual providing the right question when an answer is presented. However, the game that took place during the Watson competition was severely unfair. The two human contestants, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, received no additional help. Jennings and Rutter relied on one brain….their own.

On the other hand, Watson received knowledge and input resulting from many human beings’ brains. In other words, Watson did not possess the knowledge of a single human being’s brain (i.e. Einstein). Had Watson’s knowledge base been programmed on the brain of a single human being, then we would have experienced a more level playing field and a far more interesting match. No question that would have been difficult, if even impossible, to do.  We do not know the knowledge stored in the brain of a single human being. However, there was a solution that would have provided a more level playing field and compelling match.

Alternatively, the game could have consisted of several human contestants as a team competing against Watson.  Although imperfect, this scenario would have been more even handed and competitive. It is likely that Watson still would have reigned supreme making an even stronger case for its positive impact going forward. Instead, the match became a rout of a football game where one team played with 11 players while the opponent was allowed at least 20. The major difference is that in a football game there would have been over sight and a penalty would have been called. In this case, we witnessed one-sided domination due to a playing field that was less than fair which degraded the power of this incredible super computer.



Posted in: Uncategorized