Watson V Barbie’s Boyfriends

Ok, so Watson, IBM’s supercomputer of trivia DOOM is actually playing Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, who only sound like they could be steadies of Mattel’s mascot.

K-Cup and I, being high scoring participants in Jeopardy’s Online Test (33 and 32, respectively. Bitchez), naturally tuned in to see how Watson* would do.

The whole episode was only the first round of Jeopardy because they had to explain how “Watson” works, what all the colors mean, and what the little thought bubble bar at the bottom of the screen means. (It shows the top 3 choices its considering and how sure it is that it’s right, and there’s a buzzer baseline. If it’s not X% sure, it won’t buzz in) Watson pushes a buzzer button just like contestants do, it registers no emotion just like Ken Jennings, and it makes people uncomfortable, just like  Brad Rutter does. So basically they were evenly matched. The first 10 questions or so were super embarrassing – Watson was faster, smarter and stronger. It was going the distance, going for speed and just had a faster recall of facts, Beatles lyrics and Olympics trivia. BUT. The tide began turning when wordplay was involved…

“Four letter word for peak, the first three of which are a kind of simian” totally stumped Watson. At one point Watson repeated a wrong answer Jennings had just given, so I guess it doesn’t hear other contestants answers.

We’ll see how Double Jeopardy goes tomorrow. Will Watson make Ken cry? Will Brad make Watson so uncomfortable it reboots? Will Trebek start to look natural by comparison?

The cutest moment was when they used the drawn-out timeline to show the IBM nerds working with Watson – at one point they asked it a question about the first non-dairy creamer. When Watson suggested “milk” everyone cracked up and started teasing it. Teasing the computer. Maybe IBM needed to schedule more recess time.


*To the extent that Watson is named after the IBM lab that created it, I’m fine with it. To the extent that it’s named after Conan Doyle’s creation, I’m fine with it. But it could have had an androgynous voice and an androgynous name. But that wasn’t important enough to anyone at IBM. The Jeopardy crew also didn’t feel the need to have a female and a male contestant, or a top two men v top two women v Watson competition.

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2 Responses to Watson V Barbie’s Boyfriends

  1. Suzanne says:

    I was so worried after the first 10 minutes of play that Watson was just going to CRUSH Ken and Brad and I was bored with not even getting to guess the answer myself before the little bar at the bottom of the screen popped up and gave away the answers. But once Watson started losing it was much more interesting.

    When you go on Jeopardy as a contestant, can you say my name on tv? That’s the closest I’m ever going to get, seeing as how I’m pretty sure I scored a 12 on the test.

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