I was walking down 7th Avenue earlier tonight, explaining the story of the indomitable computer, Watson, to my co-worker. IBM spent four years designing Watson, whose 3-day Jeopardy! battle against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter aired this week. Watson, unconnected to the internet, was to rely on his analytical skills and deep database in going head to head against arguably the two greatest humans ever to compete on the quiz show- Jennings won a record 74 times in a row, and Rutter set the record for most money accumulated in a single game, then triumphed in the Tournament of Champions. Watson crushed them.
I was describing, in vivid terms, the savage beating Watson had administered on Jennings and Rutter, when a voice behind me yelled, “Watson sucks! Root for the humans!”
I half turned, saw a man a few steps behind me, and replied, “Of course! You gotta root for the humans.”
I looked back again and saw the man branching off on 51st street, a blonde woman on his arm. She laughed. “You’re talking to one of the humans.” That’s when I realized the man behind me was none other than Brad Rutter!
I raised my first and yelled, “Go humans!” He smiled, raised his fist in the air, and turned the corner. I kind of wanted to chase and ask about how Watson was able to buzz in first on nearly every question. Couldn’t a human anticipate a question halfway through better than a computer? But after trashing his performance for two blocks with him walking right behind me, and then not recognizing him, I figured it was best to let things rest.
Not that he totally disagreed with my assessment. Finishing a distant second place tonight, Rutter added a little note to his Final Jeopardy! answer:
“I for one welcome our computer overlords.”
CORRECTION AND UPDATE: It turns out Jennings, not Rutter, uttered the quote that titles my post. Well, all for the better. No need to welcome those f’in computers yet. I stand with Rutter in support of the human race.
Also, Brad and I are now following each other on Twitter, and he seems to be a good dude. A better rep for the Human team if Watson’s got the balls for a rematch.