Shandrew (shandrew) wrote,

Jeopardy versus a computer was boring and unfair

I looked forward to the Ken Jennings (human) vs Brad Rutter (human) vs IBM Watson (8 racks of computer) battle on Jeopardy. However, it turned out to be a dull match. All three competitors could correctly answer 70-90% of the clues by the time the clue had finished being read. They were likely an close match in terms of knowledge, but we'll never know, because the humans didn't have a chance to show it.

A fair fight would have been if the humans had the same buzzing capabilities that Watson had. The Jeopardy buzzers are only interesting if all competitors are human. The buzzers work by having some countdown that completes after the question gets read. If you buzz in too early, you get locked out and can't buzz in for a few seconds. Buzz in too late, the other contestants beat you. Watson, on the other hand always buzzes in at the perfect moment. This could even be done without computing is not an impressive feat for a machine. To make the competition fair, the early-buzz lockout should be replaced by a random picker which chooses from any competitor who buzzes in before the question has completely been read. This way everyone has a fair chance at buzzing in. Easy questions would be a toss up between the three contestants instead of a gimme for the computer.

As it was played, the match may as well have been 121 iterations of A:"2-1?" Q:"What is 1." Watson was impressive, but we still don't know how well it compares to the top human Jeopardy players in terms of answering trivia--all we know is that it's pretty good, and a computer can push a button a lot faster than a human (leave George Jetson out of this).

Rematch proposal: Jennings vs Rutter vs Watson. Early buzzes are registered at the time when the question reading is complete; the winner out of multiple early buzzes is chosen at random.

(Finally, IBM, please program Watson to choose the funniest, rather than most likely to be correct, answer in the cases where it has an insurmountable lead. "Alex, what is a steampunk sneezing panda frightening Rick Astley. aaaannd...I'll take Your Mom for $400.")
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