Readers sound off about Watson, the IBM computer that bested quiz-show superstars Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter during a three-day Jeopardy! competition.

Watson appears to have an unfair advantage in that his response button is hardwired and probably actuates in microseconds, whereas the human needs tenths of a second to respond. There should be a delay in his wiring. It wasn't an even playing field.
James LaRock,
NIST Center for Neutron
Research

Specs wishlist

Regarding IBM's initiative, I would like to see the following specifications for a unit built to compete against humans:

  • Input via vision and hearing

  • All memory and processing in the same volume as a human cranium

  • Trigger mechanism must be electromechanical to simulate a hand and arm

From what I could tell, the other players had answers, but weren't quite as fast as Watson.
R. Winkel

Buzzer battles

It appears that Watson had the biggest advantage in that it was able to “buzz in” more accurately and therefore have more opportunities to answer questions. This is an unfair advantage in that Watson was able to predict when the question had been asked, so that it could actuate the button and lock out the competition. I believe that a pushed button can only occur after the question has been asked and the announcer's voice has ceased. Watson was in a good position to predict when that point in time was, based on the voice patterns of Alex Trebek. Therefore, Watson was able to buzz in more precisely and win the race. This ability does not address the man versus machine intelligence debate.
David O'Connor