A computer kicks Ken Jennings’ butt on “Jeopardy.” And the SI swimsuit issue brings yawns from me






I am not ashamed to say that I had been looking forward to seeing this week’s “Jeopardy” shows for weeks.
Ever since I heard that an IBM supercomputer named Watson was going to play against nerd-hero Ken Jennings on “Jeopardy,” I was as excited as a 9-year-old in Toys R’ Us.
I love “Jeopardy.” I loved Ken Jennings’ incredible 74-day run on Jeopardy a few years ago, when he just ate up his opponents and spit them out. But how would he and another grand “Jeopardy” champion, Brad Rutter, do against a computer that was the smartest ever produced, one that could understand the language of questions on “Jeopardy,” and knew how to work that damn signaling button?
Answer: The computer kicked the humans’ butts. After two days of the 3-day match, Watson was far, far ahead, with $35,734 in winnings (Watson seemed to love odd Daily Double wagers, which was endearing), to Jennings’ paltry sum of $4,800. Rutter wasn’t doing much better, as he finished with $10,400.

It was stunning to watch two human champions, among the smartest people in the country, sit there frustrated while Watson rang in and rattled off right answer after right answer. Rutter and Jennings looked mortal and old-fashioned, like your VCR looks now compared to the shiny DVD player (Admit it, you feel bad for your VCR. It deserves your sympathy).

This is upsetting, Watson’s dominance. (though I did get a good laugh when he answered “Toronto” to a Final Jeopardy question about U.S. cities). When Garry Kasparov beat that Deep Blue computer in 1996, we humans felt reassured. Then Deep Blue beat Kasparov the next year.
Now Watson is making Ken Jennings look like, well, you or me on “Jeopardy.”
There’s one more night of this event, tonight on “Jeopardy.” I implore you Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, save the human race! Kick that computer’s ass!

Always fun to hate an inanimate object, isn’t it?

**So the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue came out this week. An event as a boy that I used to so look forward to is now just an “eh, no biggie” moment in my life.
I used to worship Elle MacPherson, Kathy Ireland and the vastly-underrated Stacey Williams, and my friend Andrew used to have posters of the covers each year above his bed.

Now,  I barely care. Maybe it’s because I’ve been exposed to so much more since then. Maybe it’s because the Internet, with its incredibly easy access to sites that show, um, so much more of women than the Swimsuit Issue does, has made what SI does so much less titillating.
But either way, the SI Swimsuit Issue seems almost quaint now. I can’t imagine there are 13-year-old boys who are anxiously awaiting its appearance in their mailbox anymore. (I also used to love, a few weeks later, the letters to the editor from readers who were shocked to see this issue, and wanted to immediately cancel their subscriptions! Always got a kick out of that)
I guess SI still puts it out because it’s tradition and all. But really, it seems like a relic from a bygone age to me.


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