John Henry’s Hammer, Kasparov’s Chess, and now Jeopardy!

So it looks like the machines are going to win at another tried and true American game, Jeopardy. IBM just recently finished a computer called “Watson”, and it’s taking aim at all the trivia crazed population thus making humans obsolete in yet another category (oh the humanity). First the steam powered hammer. Then Kasparov loses to Deep Blue (also IBM’s invention). Finally, Watson will take out Trebek (at least all his contestants). I guess the only thing we’ll be watching in the future will be CPU vs CPU. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane though.

Steam Powered Hammer, 1840s

John Henry is an American folk hero, notable for having raced against a steam powered hammer and won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand. He has been the subject of numerous songs, stories, plays, and novels. He had a 20 pound hammer that he thought was light, was 6 feet tall, and weighed about 200 pounds. – Wikipedia

Deep Blue, 1997

In May 1997, an updated version of Deep Blue defeated Kasparov 3½–2½ in a highly publicised six-game match. The match was even after five games but Kasparov was crushed in Game 6. This was the first time a computer had ever defeated a world champion in match play. – Wikipedia

Watson, 2010

This is the quintessential sort of clue you hear on the TV game show “Jeopardy!” It’s witty (the clue’s category is “Postcards From the Edge”), demands a large store of trivia and requires contestants to make confident, split-second decisions… 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 — and aims to prove as much on national TV. – NY Times

Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza

Juan Carlos directed two acclaimed films: "Know How" a musical written and acted by youth in foster care, and "Second Skin" a documentary on virtual worlds. He is Director of Social Action Impact & Public Affairs at Participant Media, and the Founder of White Roof Project, a nonprofit organization curbing climate change. @jcpe

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