- In case you haven't watched football with me, I generally annoy everyone else in the room the entire game by urging the team with the ball to be more aggressive: pass more, go for it on 4th down, and stop kicking field goals. The data backs me up. Similarly when I watch Jeopardy, I get upset when players land on the Daily Double - the one chance they have to win a ton of money very quickly - and bet very conservatively, throwing away their chance to leave their competition in the dust. So I was intrigued by this comment from Ken Jennings on Watson's performance:
Daily Doubles aren't distributed randomly...basically, it had thousands of old Jeopardy games in its head and knew where to look. And got very lucky. Most players go top-down, but some hunt for Daily Doubles like Watson. Brad Rutter calls this an arms race: if one player does it, you have to join in to keep up.Clearly Watson, as a computer that can compute expected value and forecast his expected winning percentage, has figured out that the Daily Doubles are valuable - he routinely picks questions in the $800 and $1000 row to start the game, and bets big - $6000 at one point - on the question. This play is forcing the other players in the game to improve their strategies. Hopefully this trend will extend to normal games of Jeopardy, as it increases the variance and makes the game more fun to watch. However, Jeopardy's normally a one-off game so it's possible player strategy won't improve.
- Lots of people make the mistake of assuming a person is "smart" because they are good at Jeopardy. I don't think Jeopardy is a very good measure of intelligence; it measures your knowledge of obscure trivia, as well as your ability to recall it, but there's more to intelligence than an encyclopedia. It's possible this skill is correlated with intelligence (maybe intelligent people read widely, or have better recall), but Jeopardy skill doesn't prove intelligence per se. It's good to see people realizing Watson knows a lot but isn't "smart" - it can't recognize when another contestant gave the same answer, for example.
- Watson's buzzer pressing mechanism is lightning fast, so it wins the buzzer on every question where it computes the answer by the time Trebek finishes reading the question. I thought this was unfair, but then realized putting an artificial damper on Watson's reaction time would be stupid - if it's a better Jeopardy player under the current rules, then great, and if it's unfair, they should change the rules so everyone gets an equal shot at the question, or use some other mechanism to award first crack at an answer.
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