IBM’s Watson supercomputer seemed unbeatable as it crushed human champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in Jeopardy. Most folks wouldn’t expect that to change as Watson matched wits with U.S. Congressman. But Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has defeated the mighty machine in a round of Jeopardy Monday evening, in which Holt finished with 8,600 points to Watson’s 6,200. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) was third with 1,000 points.
Holt is himself a former Jeopardy champion, having won five straight games back when Art Fleming was hosting the show (now helmed by Alex Trebek). Before he was elected to Congress, Holt was the Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University, the University’s largest research facility. (Note: I live in the 12th District here in New Jersey, where you often see cars bearing bumper stickers saying “My Congressman IS a Rocket Scientist.”)
“I watched a few episodes [of Watson] against Jennings a few weeks ago, and I thought I was in for trouble,” Holt told The Hill.
The version of Watson used in the challenge in Washington is described as a “slightly slower” unit than the supercomputer featured in the Jeopardy challenge, which was held on IBM’s campus in New York state, where the contests were held in a studio adjacent to the data center housing the full Watson array of 90 servers.
For more on Watson, see our previous coverage: