Ken Jennings vs. Watson 'Jeopardy' Liveblog: Round 2


Welcome to The Atlantic's liveblog of the epic match between man and machine that is Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter vs. IBM's Watson computer. The battleground is the game of Jeopardy!, which Jennings dominated for more than 70 days in 2004, launching him to international fame. Associate editor Jared Keller will be taking over the controls leading up to the 7:30 p.m. match.

Editor's Note: I'm using Storify to curate messages from around the Web on the Watson vs. Jennings showdown. Scroll to the middle of the post to see the most recent updates.

8:00: The major theme from tonight - both in IBM's infomercials and questions - was the linguistic difference between humans and machines. Watson nailed virtually every question he was asked, including a question about the Dana Carvey's SNL "Church Lady," whose telltale squeal is identifiable primarily because it's rooted in a specific vocal expression. Natural language is built on semantics, on constantly evolving aphorisms and idioms and other idiosyncratic verbal mash-ups that aren't easily constrained within a set verbal template. What Watson shows is a machine with intuition. I'm looking forward to seeing how the final round shapes up.

7:58: As end credits roll, Ken, Brad, and Trebek all look vaguely unhappy. Trebek is probably praying that Watson has better things to do than school his fellow humans. Like, say, travel back in time to protect John Conner.   

7:56: Watson guesses wrong with Toronto! Obviously, he's never been to the Windy City. Good thing he only wagered $947. Trebek: "Oh, you sneak." Ken and Brad both got the question right. Neither looked that pleased.

7:54: Final Jeopardy is where legends are born. Category: U.S. Cities. Question: "Its largest airport is named for a WWII hero, its second largest for a WWII battle." 

7:50: Watson sure knows a lot about hedgehogs. The computer ends the round with more than $36,000. Brad has something like $5,400. Jennings probably just wants to go home and take a cold shower. I don't see any way Jennings can claw his way back from this defeat, unless he suddenly becomes an art history expert overnight. 

7:48: And we're back. Watson, with a brief pause in the beginning, is killing it. Ken gets an answer in edgewise. Everyone's stumped on a question about the King of Spain. Odd.

7:46: Another infomercial, this time about dealing with the torrents of data and information that pour down on everyone else. The idea of programming "insight" is intriguing...I wonder what that looks like in schematics. 

IBM's making the comparison to using computer programs to read through massive amounts of medical information in the healthcare system. "We need the tools to glean the best [from medical data]...Most of that data is in natural language, not code."

7:43: The poor measly humans can't even get a word in edgewise. Watson has answered every question from the beginning of the round to the commercial break. Michelle Legro wondered last night if Watson's creators would have a chance to tweak the supercomputer's settings before this round. Maybe he just had a complete breakfast.

7:42: Watson hits another Daily Double, wagers $1,246...and nails it with only 32% confidence. Can a machine get cold feet? 

Presented by

Jared Keller is a former associate editor for The Atlantic and The Atlantic Wire and has also written for Lapham's Quarterly's Deja Vu blog, National Journal's The Hotline, Boston's Weekly Dig, and Preservation magazine. 

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