Why Watson bet odd amounts on Daily Doubles

UPDATED: And what the Internet is saying about last night's one-sided contest

Watson - Jeopardy

While I didn't watch Watson vs. the Jeopardy champs last night, my wife did and one of the questions she had afterward was why did the machine bet odd amounts -- $1,246 and $6,435 - on the Daily Doubles when human players almost always wager round numbers. On the assumption that some of you may have had the same question, here's the answer via Wired:

As for the weird wagers - Watson bet $1246 on one Daily Double and $6,435  on the other - Lally said the Watson team did include game theorists, who programmed winning strategies (like searching the board's higher-priced clues early for hidden Daily Doubles) into Watson's game plan. But though human players usually pick round numbers when naming their Daily Double wager, there's no reason why they have to - so the team decided to let Watson choose its own amount based on its own algorithms.

In other words, Watson is computer and sometimes computers have a mind of their own.

(Tech 'firsts' that made a President's day.)

As those who watched know, Watson absolutely crushed his human foes. The reactions of headline writers and pundits are predictable if somewhat apocalyptic:

From The Consumerist: Computer Contestant Dominates Top Humans In Jeopardy

Humans have now been rendered just about obsolete in terms of Jeopardy acumen, judging from the way know-it-all computer Watson owned two of the show's most impressive players on Tuesday night's episode, the second of three in which they competed.

From Newsday: Watson keeps on rollin', rollin', rollin.

From TIME: Watson Takes No Prisoners on Jeopardy!'s Man vs. Machine.

From The Globe and Mail: IBM's 'Jeopardy!' Watson: Shades of Terminator.

Watching IBM's super computer Watson best two of the great stars of Jeopardy! over the past two nights was fascinating, somewhat creepy and, yes, a little bit frightening.

From TG Daily: Jeopardy/Watson night 2: when it stops being fun.

The second night of the three-night Jeopardy "man versus machine" battle aired last night, and after a while it really stopped being interesting and felt more like a bloodbath.

The Chicago Tribune went with the local angle: Chicago question stumps 'Jeopardy' computer.

The Zeitgeisty Report came unhinged: Watson the computer DEMOLISHES puny brained humans on 'Jeopardy!'

Maybe I'll watch the next match just to see if this is the end of life as we know it.

(Update: Stephen Baker at The Huffington Post explains why Watson could do so well yet make the colossal blunder of believing Toronto to be in the United States.)

(Update 2: And my Network World colleague Jon Brodkin has more detail on that flub in his post here.)

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