When I heard that IBM's Watson supercomputer was due to appear on Jeopardy, I expected carnage. After all, Watson has thousands of Power7 processor cores spread across 90 servers, plus terabytes of storage capacity that's presumably brimming with useful trivia. The system employs custom software to interpret clues, search for answers, and decide whether it's confident enough in any one of them to risk hitting the buzzer. Watson talks, too—and not like Dr. Sbaitso.
Last night, the supercomputer faced off against former Jeopardy champions in the first of three rounds of competition. According to CNN, Watson raced out to an early lead but was soon reeled in after a few stumbles. The round ended with the computer locked in a tie for first place.
We won't know who wins until Wednesday's show, but I wouldn't bet against the supercomputer. After all, it was IBM's Deep Blue that bested chess master Garry Kasparov in the late 90s. Ken Jennings is no Kasparov, although I suppose Jeopardy poses an entirely different set of challenges than chess. You can read more about Watson on this page of IBM's site.