According to this article on Engadget:
So, in February IBM’s Watson will be in an official Jeopardy tournament-style competition with titans of trivia Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. That competition will be taped starting tomorrow, but hopefully we’ll get to know if a computer really can take down the greatest Jeopardy players of all time in “real time” as the show airs. It will be a historic event on par with Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov, and we’ll absolutely be glued to our seats. Today IBM and Jeopardy offered a quick teaser of that match, with the three contestants knocking out three categories at lightning speed. Not a single question was answered wrongly, and at the end of the match Watson, who answers questions with a cold computer voice, telegraphing his certainty with simple color changes on his “avatar,” was ahead with $4,400, Ken had $3,400, and Brad had $1,200.
This is kind of interesting because what makes a computer good at Jeopardy is the opposite of what makes a human good at Jeopardy.
A computer can easily store vast amounts of data, but cannot so easily process human language.
A human can easily understand language, but we can’t easily store vast amounts of data. After all, the entire point of Jeopardy is not understanding the question, but knowing data that most humans don’t use in every day life.
So I think the real achievement here is in language processing — being able to output a specific answer based really only on an incoming string of letters (or maybe sound waves).
It’s easy to understand how such an achievement could be useful: imagine being able to type a question into Google and getting a direct answer (or at least a direct guess) instead of just a bunch of webpages that make you search for the answer yourself. Even though searching for the answer yourself doesn’t always take that much time, getting a direct answer would be much more convenient. Or imagine being able to speak a question into your phone or your car’s dashboard while driving, when you can’t browse the web without risking death, and having it speak back a direct answer. Imagine being able to cheat easily while you’re playing trivia games with your friends who are judging your intelligence and value as a friend based on how many useless random things you know.
While this would be nice technology for us to have, it still doesn’t have the power to create so much, does it? When will we have computers that can formulate their own sentences? That can write metaphors? That can write entire books? I guess we’re still too far away from that…
Anyway, if the computer wins, I say it should take over Alex Trebek’s job. I mean, what does he get paid for anyway? He just stands there and reads stuff. Computers can already do that. And besides, he still has his life insurance spokesperson job to fall back on.