Terminator: Jeopardy!

02.14.11 7 years ago 10 Comments

Tonight begins the long-awaited multi-night “Jeopardy!” duel between the show’s greatest champions and Watson, the IBM supercomputer that has been taught the intricacies of the game show’s language tricks by scientists who have doomed us all. DOOMED I SAY! Seriously, some of the quotes in this Esquire article are reminiscent of dialogue from the Terminator films.

“It’s really amazing,” [Ken] Jennings says. “Watson gives you only the tiniest window. It never forgets. And its buzzer reflexes will make me look like… What’s an example of someone with really bad reflexes?” Jennings watches his kids play for a moment. “Like an eighty-year-old ex-hippie, I guess.”

Watson’s weakness, as small as it might be, will be its cognitive thinking, its interpretive and linguistic skills… “Watson might be able to answer a clue, but it could never write a new one,” Jennings says. “It can figure out how to tell a joke, but it will never laugh at it.”

“When you see people who are really good at game shows, the one common attribute is a cool head under pressure: an ability to perform as well in the studio, surrounded by lights and noise, as you do on your couch. Obviously, that’s trivial for a computer. It has no emotions, no stage fright. It plays its best possible game at any given moment.”

“And it absolutely will not stop, EVER, until you are dead!” Duh-duh! Duh! Duh-duh! CHINK!

And it’s not just me reading too deeply into Esquire. Jennings and Brad Rutter really do feel compelled to win this one for humanity:

“I felt more pressure than usual,” admits Jennings. ” I felt like I was chosen to be a champion of the species somehow. Homo Sapiens would be let down if I let the machine take this. This will be the greatest thing on television ever…until dolphins learn how to play ‘Jeopardy’.”

Adds Rutter: “I feel a little like John Henry, although hopefully I won’t collapse dead with a buzzer in my hand at the end of the match. But I imagine people at home with be rooting for either Ken or I to win rather than Watson. You do feel like you’re trying to strike a blow for humanity against the rise of the machines.” [NBC]

I feel like Jennings and Rutter should be able to team up against Watson for the sake of humanity. Is it wrong that I’m kind of nervous for tonight?

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