Jeopardy: Elementary, Watson

jeopardyAre you watching “Jeopardy” this week, in which IBM’s long-aborning computer Watson is playing against the show’s all-time top champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter? The first night was off-putting at first, with Watson seeming to run away with the opening Jeopardy round. The development of a game-playing, near-human machine may be exciting, but it wasn’t providing much excitement. Later in the round, however, the humans started catching up, making the program more compelling. The presence of the computer, represented not by the hardware but by an avatar, makes me realize how much of the pleasure in Jeopardy derives not just from testing one’s wits against the contestants but from the visual of the players. The avatar just isn’t as much fun to stare at as the humans are.

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