Turns out all it took to top Watson, the "Jeopardy"-winning computer, was a real-life rocket scientist.
Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey is just such a scientist. The congressman topped the IBM computer Monday night in a "Jeopardy"-style exhibition match held in a Washington hotel.
Holt says it was fun to beat the heralded computer. But he also says it's important that Americans realize how important math and science education is to the nation's future.
The Democrat from the Princeton area built a lead in categories including "Presidential Rhyme Time," in which the correct response to "Herbert's military strategy" was "Hoover's maneuvers." The congressman also correctly identified hippophobia as the fear of horses.
Watson beat him to the buzzer with the answer "love" when prompted on what Ambrose Bierce described as "a temporary insanity curable by marriage." ...
Holt played the first round along with Rep. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican. At the end of the round, Holt had earned $8,600 to Watson's $6,200.
But the computer ultimately triumphed in later rounds against other representatives, amassing a combined $40,300 to the humans' $30,000.
Holt received a round of applause Tuesday at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee for besting the computer.
He thanked crowd and gave a shout-out to "neuron based thinking, instead of semi-conductor thinking."
Holt said it was fun to beat the heralded computer. But he also said it's important that Americans realize how crucial math and science education is to the nation's future.
"I was proud to hold my own with Watson," Holt said. "More importantly, I was proud to join IBM and other members of Congress to highlight the importance of science and math education and research and development.
"While it was fun to outdo Watson for one night in trivia, it is vital that, as a nation, we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world for generations to come," he said.
via NJ congressman tops 'Jeopardy' computer Watson - Yahoo! News.
... For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords. Software firms and university scientists have produced question-answering systems for years, but these have mostly been limited to simply phrased questions. Nobody ever tackled “Jeopardy!” because experts assumed that even for the latest artificial intelligence, the game was simply too hard: the clues are too puzzling and allusive, and the breadth of trivia is too wide.
With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem ...
Technically speaking, Watson wasn’t in the room. It was one floor up and consisted of a roomful of servers working at speeds thousands of times faster than most ordinary desktops. Over its three-year life, Watson stored the content of tens of millions of documents, which it now accessed to answer questions about almost anything. (Watson is not connected to the Internet; like all “Jeopardy!” competitors, it knows only what is already in its “brain.”) During the sparring matches, Watson received the questions as electronic texts at the same moment they were made visible to the human players; to answer a question, Watson spoke in a machine-synthesized voice through a small black speaker on the game-show set. When it answered the Burj clue — “What is Dubai?” (“Jeopardy!” answers must be phrased as questions) — it sounded like a perkier cousin of the computer in the movie “WarGames” that nearly destroyed the world by trying to start a nuclear war.
This time, though, the computer was doing the right thing. Watson won $1,000 (in pretend money, anyway), pulled ahead and eventually defeated Gilmartin and Kolani soundly, winning $18,400 to their $12,000 each.
“Watson,” Crain shouted, “is our new champion!”
It was just the beginning. Over the rest of the day, Watson went on a tear, winning four of six games. It displayed remarkable facility with cultural trivia (“This action flick starring Roy Scheider in a high-tech police helicopter was also briefly a TV series” — “What is ‘Blue Thunder’?”), science (“The greyhound originated more than 5,000 years ago in this African country, where it was used to hunt gazelles” — “What is Egypt?”) and sophisticated wordplay (“Classic candy bar that’s a female Supreme Court justice” — “What is Baby Ruth Ginsburg?”).
By the end of the day, the seven human contestants were impressed, and even slightly unnerved, by Watson. Several made references to Skynet, the computer system in the “Terminator” movies that achieves consciousness and decides humanity should be destroyed. ...