News that IBM is building a computer to compete against humans at Jeopardy! reminded many of the company’s man vs. machine experiment with Deep Blue, the program that beat Garry Kasparov at chess in 1997. And who better to play against the new IBM app than Ken Jennings, the Garry Kasparov of Jeopardy!?
“Short answer: yes,” says Jennnings, the all-time Jeopardy! champ, when asked if he’d like to play the computer at the game he came to rule. “I'm a Jeopardy! junkie and would love to be asked back on the show to play just about anybody: human, computer, chimp, whatever they've got.
“I'm also...a bit of a computer geek—a former programmer who took some artificial intelligence classes in colleges. So I'm fascinated by the question of how an artificial player could do at a quiz game against top competition, whether or not I'm invited to play. I genuinely don't know how it will shake out. But I've seen the Terminator movies, so I'm not 100 percent optimistic about mankind's chances here,” Jennings wrote in an email, perhaps cautioned Kasparov’s widely publicized loss.
News of IBM’s project broke Monday, and the company says it has been eyeing a televised man vs. machine Jeopardy! challenge since 2007, when it launched its DeepQA project—an attempt to build a question-answering computer than can communicate in human language. It is out of that project that Watson, as the Jeopardy!-playing computer has been dubbed, is being born.