163. Elementary, my dear Watson

I like Watson.  I can’t help it.

Some of my best friends are computers.  Especially the Irish ones.  The ones whose names have a “Mac” in it.

That’s why I can’t figure out why I like IBM’s Watson computer so much.  It (he?) has already triumphed over adversity as far as I’m concerned.  Think about his grass roots – he comes from predecessors raised in the DOS and Windows environment, but he has steadfastly refused to let that deter him from becoming All-Knowing. Of course, he hasn’t been introduced to the internet yet.  Then he’ll have to cope with all those viruses, worms, and other organisms so prevalent among his ancestors.  But that’s life in the virtual world.  It’s every brain for itself.

On Day 1, Seattle’s human computer Ken Jennings and his fellow smarty-pants Brad Rutter faced off against Watson. It’s a $1 million grand prize trivia duel to the death on Jeopardy. So who will triumph? On that day, Watson did okay, tying with Brad.

On Day 2, Watson squashed his opponents with a score of $35,734.  Brad had $10,400, Ken had $4,800.

Tonight, on Day 3, the victor will emerge. Many are hoping Watson will lose.  As a fervent Watson fan, I don’t understand all the resentment against him.  I think people are just jealous because he’s smarter than we are. Me, I don’t have a problem with that.  I’m used to being outsmarted by my computer, but I’m bigger than it is, and besides it’s my house.

Or they fear him because he’ll “enslave” them.  Maybe people would think more kindly of Watson if they’d remember that his real power comes from an electrical outlet.  Watson is a lot like a consultant.  A consultant is a guy who knows 25 ways to make love, but he doesn’t know any girls.  Neither does Watson.

And he doesn’t have any money, either. As the Russians used to say, “He who controls the purse, controls the power.”  As far as I know, Watson doesn’t have a Paypal account yet.

Then, of course, there’s his sense of humor, or lack of it.  Watson will never know the blissful gift of laughter, and is forevermore condemned to the sad existence of a machine that will eventually know everything about the world, but nothing about the joy of living in it.  Who wouldn’t take pity on a bloke like that?

This is a review of Day 1’s Jeopardy show by Curtis Carter of the Seattle Weekly.

The only thing currently standing between IBM supercomputer Watson and its inevitable rise as humanity’s all-powerful overlord is a young, flawlessly stubbly man from Pennsylvania named Brad Rutter. Hometown hero and winningest Jeopardy player ever, Ken Jennings spent day one of the much-hyped computer-vs.-human match a second late and an answer short. But with two more days of competition to go, Jennings too may be able to do his part to delay mankind’s robotic enslavement.

In brief review, Watson is a massive supercomputer built by IBM that’s not connected to the Internet, but rather crammed full of info and able to understand the complexity of Jeopardy’s unorthodox questions enough to be really, really good at answering them.

It was built for two purposes: to beat Jennings and Rutter and hopefully to remind people that IBM still makes things.

The topics on day one were: “Literary Character APB,” “Beatles People,” “Olympic Oddities,” Name the Decade,” “Final Frontiers,” and “Alternate Meanings.”

Watson busted out the gate right away, answering 11 of the first 15 questions before the break, earning itself $5,200 to Rutter’s $1,000 and Jennings’ $200.

But things got more interesting in the second half when Rutter heated up and eventually tied the newfangled contraption, thanks to some digital fuck-ups by Watson like when he gave the same wrong answer Jennings did, thereby earning the scorn of host Alex “Shuck It” Trebek.

Jennings: “What is the 1920s?” Trebek: “No.” Watson: “What is the 1920s?” Trebek: “No, Ken said that!”


We’ll just have to wait and see how it all turns out tonight.   However it ends, please be kind to Watson.  Just because he’s smart doesn’t mean he doesn’t need love.

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5 Responses to 163. Elementary, my dear Watson

  1. Linda Lewis says:

    Unlike our beloved Octo-woman, Watson will never know the blissful gift of laughter, and… nothing about the joy of living in it.

  2. Gretchen Covey says:

    Mom, are you also partial to Watson because of your work with enormous computers at Children’s Hospital? I will take a break and watch it with you tonight!

  3. Tim Fitzpatrick says:

    Well I don’t want to get all techy here but since IBM computers raised my family I feel compelled to point out that DOS and Windows are Microsoft products. And it is Microsoft that is plagued with all that virus stuff.

    Actually, Watson had his beginnings in an IBM operating system called OS/2 which was an object oriented operating system and consequently immune to viruses because a virus cannot call an object. This was also the strength behind OS400 the operating system on the very popular AS/400 midrange computers.

    Go Watson Go!!

    • Octo-woman says:

      My nephew Tim is a brainy child if there ever was one. He should be one of the Jeopardy players. I try to forget who the proud owner of DOS and Windows is but from now on I’ve gotta remember to lay the credit for it at the proper door – at Microsoft in Seattle. As a former IBM mainframe customer, though, I can testify that they didn’t help raise my particular family. For those 16 years, I like to think I helped raise theirs, possibly even including their new heir apparent, Watson. But I fervently agree — Go Watson Go!

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