IBM's Watson versus humans.

An unfair competition.


When the famous IBM computer called Watson won the Jeopardy tournament against the best ever human players, the competition was unfair.
             There is no doubt that the computer knew the answers to many of the questions but the rules in Jeopardy state that a contestant cannot press the buzzer until the quiz master has finished asking the question. There is a person there whose sole job is to signal the fact the question has been asked in its entirety and give the all clear for contestants to press the buzzer.
             Unfortunately, on receipt of the signal , the computer, being as it’s all electronic, is infinitely quicker at pressing the buzzer than a human contestant. Consequently, all the easy questions were won by the computer and in fact, if the computer had calculated the probable answer before the quiz master finished asking the question, it got the right to answer that too because of its electronic mastery of the buzzer.
             If you go to youtube and watch the now famous competition you’ll see the frustration on the human players’ faces at the way they were consistently beaten to the buzzer by the computer. The humans knew the answer too but the computer, being electronic, had a very unfair advantage and the only questions the humans managed to win were the ones the computer couldn’t answer. And interestingly, despite this disadvantage, the humans did very well in the competition. Another big advantage to the computer was the fact that it got very lucky and picked most of the double jeopardy questions. (A very unusual event - rather like a person going into a casino and winning a bundle of money.)
             So, in my opinion, if the computer had not had the unfair advantage of being able to always be first on the buzzer, the humans might probably have won the competition. Not good for IBM’s image at all.

---April 6, 2014---

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