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Watson Thrashes Human Meatbags, Andy Richter Gets Revenge

Watson and Ken JenningsLast night saw the final round of competition between Watson, the 'Jeopardy'-playing supercomputer, and the two contestants selected to represent all mankind. Our delegates performed admirably, but, at the end of the day, that bundle of neurons we call the human brain simply couldn't stand up to that room full of servers and the avatar with 42 "thought threads" (a nod to the greatest book ever written). The depth of Watson's knowledge was impressive, but its ability to decipher natural language, (such as the clues' puns and riddles) was even more astounding. The questions aren't impossible. (Though we'd hardly go as far as to say a high schooler with Wikipedia access could ace them, as Paul Miller at Engadget suggests.) 'Jeopardy' is tough because of the clues' syntax and multi-layered references, which can't be answered by simply typing them into Google. The ability to analyze human language beyond simple fact-based queries is an astounding accomplishment for a machine, and the engineers at IBM should be proud of that alone. Trouncing the two greatest champions in 'Jeopardy' history is just a bonus. (The final scores weren't even close, with Ken Jennings placing second with $24,000 to Watson's $77,147.)

The longest running Jeopardy champ later wrote a piece for Slate describing his face-off with Watson. Jennings notes, "Playing against Watson turned out to be a lot like any other Jeopardy! game." He even points out that Watson has a lot in common with other 'Jeopardy' champs: "It's very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman." But Watson does have an advantage in that it "cannot be intimidated... [and] never gets cocky or discouraged." In the end, Jennings decided "there's no shame in losing to silicon." But if you're feeling a little less conciliatory, check out the pair of videos after the break, in which Andy Richter exacts some revenge on the future master of mankind. Hell hath no wrath like a talkshow sidekick scorned.

Tags: AndyRichter, conan, gaming, ibm, jeopardy, jeopardy+watson, jeopardywatson, KenJennings, media, science, top, tv, watson, watson+jeopardy, watson+on+jeopardy, watsonjeopardy, watsononjeopardy