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February 15th, 2011 / #observations, #television

Tonight, for the second time in as many days, IBM’s Watson will battle the brains of a couple of the best Jeopardy! contestants of all time, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

I’ve been reading about this for months now. For some reason, I subscribed to Forbes in late 2010 and their story about artificial mind power on syndicated television game shows is the only thing from the publication I’ve read to date. Turns out I’m not really a Forbes kind of guy. Surprise, right?

Anyhow, all of this talk of digital daily doubles got me thinking: Who (or what, as it were) should I root for? Humans? Robots? It’s an epic clash of man and machine.

On the one hand, to root against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter would be traitorous to my own kind. On the other, if Watson can eke out a victory against the best of the best, it will prove the technological prowess of our species. But is it acceptable to cheer progress, even if it is at the expense of real men?

After thinking about where my priorities are, however, I came to a conclusion: I can’t stand human Jeopardy! contestants. From their obnoxious little mannerisms to their uninteresting and tedious personal stories after the first commercial break, there are few players I can actually tolerate. And when Ken Jennings was on for 74 days in a row? It was like watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island: you know how it’s going to end, but it’s 7:30, I just ate, and the remote’s all the way over there. A recipe for disaster.

The computer doesn’t have any of those characteristics. No personal quirks, no faux humility, no propensity to be an annoying sack of bones. It’s for this reason – not because of the wonderment of a technological tomorrow – that I hereby endorse Watson in this contest.

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