There will be people channel-surfing this week who will come across Jeopardy! and wonder why Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the best-known champions in the show's history, are vying with a third contestant
who which has a screensaver for a face, goes by the name of Watson and has a voice that will remind people of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Some will be unfamiliar with the back story of Watson, an IBM supercomputer specifically designed to compete on Jeopardy! And what they might observe—a machine making mincemeat of mankind's best answer-and-question contestants—could be discomfiting. If they stop and watch, who (or what) will they root for? And will their preference change as the story of Watson—specifically, its potential benefit to mankind as a tool for sifting through massive amounts of data—is explained to them? And will that change happen in the corny get-to-know-you segment that Alex Trebek has with each contestant?
MORE ON Jeopardy!:
Edward Tenner: What Happens if Watson Beats Ken Jennings on 'Jeopardy'?
Niraj Chokshi: What's So Great About IBM's Jeopardy!-Playing Machine?
Eleanor Barkhorn: Want to Win $75,000 on 'Jeopardy'? Study Literature
"Watson, we understand you represent the future of data management, analytics, and systems design. We understand the IBM team provided you with millions of documents, including dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference material that you could use to build your knowledge. And rather than relying on a single algorithm, you use thousands of algorithms simultaneously to understand the question being asked and find the correct path to the answer. Given all that, what's your idea of the perfect date? Oops, not fast enough."