Ken Jennings Blames Jeopardy Loss On Inside Handjob

In the Daily News piece, he smartly (duh) compares himself to John Henry, the folk hero who fought against machine only to die right after. Sad! Jennings dissed his digital rival in a similarly themed Slate column saying, "Watson has lots in common with a top-ranked human Jeopardy! player: It's very smart, very fast, speaks in an uneven monotone, and has never known the touch of a woman." Funny!

Jennings said in the Daily News piece:

Like any human player, Watson does buzz with a "thumb" of sorts (actually a magnetic coil mounted over a buzzer), but it can also rely on the millisecond-precision timing of a computer. The reflexes of even a very good human player will vary slightly, but not Watson's. If it knows the answer, it makes the perfect buzz. Every single time. And it's hard to win if you can't buzz.

Watson sometimes struggles answering questions that aren't so straightforward. Jennings calls these categories "train wrecks." They lead Watson to think grasshoppers are kosher and Jesus Christ is a spokesman for Brawny. Jennings writes:

In practice rounds, when Watson hit one or more "train wrecks," it was toast -- Brad and I each beat it once handily. But in the televised matches, Watson got a good draw of categories, leading to an easy win.

Hearing Ken Jennings talk about his buzzer impotence reminded me of my own failures. When I was in junior high school, I was team captain of my school's Cranial Crunch team. Cranial Crunch is a cable-access trivia game show in which Staten Island junior high schools compete against each other for pride. In our first, and only match, we played another Island school who was captained by a kid named Max.

Max and I shook hands before the competition started, but I guess I just didn't feel the bolts and gears beneath his skin. The kid was a goddamned robot. He cleaned our clock on every question. Not because he knew every answer -- I pretty much did, too -- but because he was like a machine at pressing his buzzer. For one of the rounds, no one else on his team or mine got a chance to answer -- we just couldn't keep up with his buzzing.

When we got back to I.S.72, our principal was waiting for us at the door to hear the results. We told him how Max was way faster than us at the buzzer. He seemed to be satisfied with our answer, but refused to believe that's really why we lost. I hope he was watching Jeopardy last night and read Ken Jennings's excuse.

[Mtanzer]


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