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'Jeopardy:' A new (silicon) champ

 In the battle of Machine Vs. Men, the machine has smote the men. Watson is king. And it wasn't even that close: Watson's two-day earnings were $77,147; second-place Ken Jennings had  $24,000; and Brad Rutter, $21,600. Watty takes the million bucks pot; all will be donated to charity. This was - truly  - an entertaining three day stretch, and while I like everyone else enjoyed poking fun at Watson (HAL 9000), I grew fond of the old boy. He was fallible - just like HAL, in fact. In any event, the meaning of this three day event will be parsed by computor experts for days, weeks, months, but  I have a question: Was Watson simply programmed to push the button faster than the human contestants? Carl Lambrecht, an expert in text analytics software (part of what powered Watson's brain) and chief engineer for Amherst, Ma.-based Lexalytics, had this interesting answer: 

  "In its current state, Watson does not process speech. So, at the moment Mr. Trebek finishes speaking the question, it is sent to Watson as electronic text. In my opinion, that puts Watson at a slight disadvantage to humans as it cannot start to develop its candidate hypotheses until the complete question has been spoken, whereas the human players can start to pick up clues. But it does mean Watson cannot buzz in before Mr. Trebek is done asking the question. Once Watson has processed the question, developed its candidate answers and determined it’s top answer it buzzes in electronically. And, based on the first two rounds, very effectively.”

 

 

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