‘Jeopardy!’ Contestant Ken Jennings Once Faced Off Against a Super Computer: Here’s Who Won

by Matthew Wilson
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It was a battle of man versus machine. Contestant and guest host Ken Jennings once took on a supercomputer at a game of “Jeopardy!”

In this case, humanity conceded defeat to its robot brethren. Jennings competed against the IBM Watson in 2011 and lost. “Jeopardy!” champ Brad Rutter also competed in the match-up as well.

Both Jennings and Rutter are some of the game show’s brightest. Jennings holds the record for the longest consecutive streak on the show. Meanwhile, Rutter has the show’s biggest payday.

But neither were a match for the IBM Watson super computer.

“I was pretty confident that I was going to win,” Jennings said of the match-up. “I had taken some Artificial Intelligence classes. And I knew there were no computers that could do what you need to do to win on Jeopardy. People don’t realize how tough it is to write that kind of program that can read a clue in a natural language like English. To understand the puns, the red herrings, to unpack just the meaning of the clue …  I thought, ‘Yes I will come destroy the computer.’”

Ken Jennings Conceded Defeat

Jennings spoke a big game before the 2011 match-up. But he, unfortunately, didn’t have the skills to back it up. At least not this time. Jennings can sometimes seem like a human-computer when it comes to his trivia knowledge. But he was no match for an actual computer.

Both Jennings and Rutter gave the computer a run for its money. Rutter finished strong in the first match-up, and Jennings made a comeback during the third night. But both contestants lost to Watson. The supercomputer is composed of ten racks of ten Power 750 servers. It quickly proved to be a force to be reckoned with, buzzing in on answers before Jennings or Rutter had a chance.

Jennings felt a little dismayed that he couldn’t bring home the victory for good ole’ humanity.

“I felt obsolete,” Jennings said. The contestant realized he may soon also be out of a job. “I felt like a Detroit factory worker in the ‘80s. Seeing a robot that could now do his job on the assembly line. I felt like ‘Quiz Show Contestant’ was now the first job that had become obsolete under this new regime of thinking computers.”

But Jenning still remains one of the best players to ever play “Jeopardy!,” establishing a record that’s difficult to be broken.

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