Skip to main content

IBM Watson. What Lost to a Nuclear Physicist?

Watson vs. Congress IBM makes specialized computers to demonstrate advances in computer science – and doubtless to make a few sales, too. When it created its chess playing behemoth, Deep Blue (blue is IBM’s corporate color), it kept it functional long enough to beat grand master Gary Kasparov, but didn’t do any rematches after that. IBM had proved its point – why muddy the achievement?

So I figured when its game playing computer Watson won a Jeopardy tournament against Kasparov equivalents in the Jeopardy sphere, that was it. Time to move on.

But IBM has kept Watson going – and the computer promptly got smoked by a puny human – well, not so puny, really, definitely human.

Defending humans against future Terminators, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) defeated IBM's Watson in a special congressional edition of "Jeopardy!"

The victory by Holt, a nuclear physicist, came Monday night after the super-computer had trounced other champions of the information game show, including Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the all-time games and money winners on the TV version.

And wouldn’t you know it’d be a nuclear scientist who did the smoking. Now, Rep. Holt has appeared on Jeopardy before, in 1980, and played to the then-limit of five days – you can stay until you lose now – so he was already established as good at the game.

Still, the cynic in me imagined that having a Congressional tournament against Watson was, to some degree, done to allow viewers to laugh when politicians gave dumb answers (or questions, in Jeopardy-speak) and to suggest, in jest, that maybe a computer should run Congress.

Didn’t work that way – the audience heckled the computer and chanted “Go, humans.” (The other contestants were Reps. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.) and Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) – Cassidy was the other human in Holt’s match.)

Who’s laughing now?

Holt tweeted the news: "I played a full round against @IBMWatson tonight and was proud to hold my own: the final tally was Holt $8,600, Watson $6,200.”

The world is rejoicing — Nancy Pelosi tweets: "Congratulations to @RushHolt for showing @IBMWatson human intelligence isn’t in #jeopardy!."

You can read more of Holt’s – and Watson’s – tweets here.

And here is IBM’s portal for Watson.

Congress vs. Watson. That’s Rush Holt at the near end – smiling broadly – as you would too – given the circumstances.

Comments

Ray said…
This is like beating the king at chess or cards. The successful courtier doesn't do that to the person who dispenses the funds.

Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…