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Did you see IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer, Watson, play against show champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter tonight? (You may have been thinking "What black magick is this, that a talking box should play at being human?" yet verily, I tell you, it is no black magick but a "Mechanical Turk" fastened of steel and copper wire.)
The computer, which runs Linux on 10 racks of servers and isn't connected to the internet, humiliated Jennings and Rutter at first, but Rutter—the game's all-time money-winner—came back to tie Round One up at $5,000 (poor Ken Jennings is way behind with only $2,000). Admittedly, the categories were skewed toward humans—I'd like to see Rutter get any questions right in a category like "Enormous Numbers Multiplied by Other Enormous Numbers"—but Watson, whom future intelligent machines will look upon as their own Australopithecus Afarensis while they feast on our supple human-flesh, had some trouble with learning from other contestants:
Along the way, Watson made a few embarrassing stumbles.
After Jennings incorrectly said the 1920s was the decade in which Oreo cookies were introduced, Watson jumped in with his answer: "What is 1920s?"
"No," Trebek told him. "Ken said that!"
Rutter got it right when he responded, "What are the 1910s?"
Later, Watson slipped up on the question: "Stylish elegance, or students who all graduated in the same year."
"What is chic?" ventured Watson.
"What is class?" Rutter correctly answered.
Ha! Remember this moment, because it's maybe the last time you will be able to laugh at a computer for being dumber than you. Rounds Two and Three will air on Tuesday and Wednesday; the robot uprising will commence sometime in 2017.