Somebody has to say it: The “Jeopardy!” contest among two humans and a computer was rigged. The computer contestant, known by the name Watson, can buzz itself in on a question it wants to answer in 10 milliseconds. The humans, known by the names Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, had this whole flesh-and-blood thing going on. Watson should have had at least a robotic arm that it had to use. Instead, it had only a piston-like mechanical thumb. Unfair.
Not that such an impediment as a humanoid arm would have helped for long. We all see where this is going. The pessimists say we’re a giant step closer to creating HAL, the homicidal computer from “2001.” The optimists say we’re really heading toward the computer from “Star Trek,” which contains the sum of all knowledge (human and alien) and answers questions in a conversational, detached tone. But I say Watson is more like Data, the “Star Trek” android with a fully functioning body and zero sense of humor. Data never gets a joke.
Notice, near the end of this video, Watson’s reaction when Jennings makes fun of it. Jennings has the grace and wit to write a line from “The Simpsons” below his final answer. Watson just sits – stands? – there, in mute embarrassment. Poor thing.