In a breakthrough for artificial intelligence, IBM's Watson supercomputer has trounced Jeopardy! legends Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in an exhibition round of Jeopardy! The round took place today ahead of this weekend's man vs. machine competition airing February 14, 15 and 16. Jennings and Rutter (described by one blogger as mankind's "last, best hope" against our robot overlords) will take on the supercomputer named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. The powerful machine was built by a team of 25 IBM scientists over four years. It has consumed the data-equivalent of over one million books and even knows its way around puns. Here's a video of Watson owning everyone followed by the fears and anxieties of lowly humans:

  • And So It Begins, writes The Daily What blog: "Watson more or less decimated his rivals, proving once and for all that if mankind's salvation is dependent on our Jeopardy skills, we’re pretty much boned."
  • It's Super Fast, notes Sam Gustin at Wired: "Watson is not your run-of-the-mill computer. The system is powered by 10 racks of IBM POWER 750 servers running Linux, and uses 15 terabytes of RAM, 2,880 processor cores and can operate at 80 teraflops. That's 80 trillion operations per second."
  • It's Terrifying, writes Dan Amira at New York Magazine:
In the year 2050, or 2100, or whenever the computers have finally had enough of us dirty, fallible humans and carry out their long-anticipated rebellion, we will rue the day that IBM began a revolution in artificial intelligence by building a robot that can play Jeopardy!. And not just play it--which is harder than it seems, because aside from just knowing facts, success in Jeopardy! requires the ability to interpret wordplay and other subtle hints--but beat the best human contestants in the world.

  • Ostensibly It Will Be Used for Good, Not Evil, writes Larry Dignan at ZDNet:  "As one of the dozens of humans watching this practice round, I can't deny I was a bit squeamish about seeing a supercomputer wing it, adapt and show off its artificial intelligence. Is this thing going to be Skynet? That's a bit farfetched-today IBM is thinking health care will make the most use of Watson-but a supercomputer that has self-awareness and can learn gives this human pause."
  • Either Way, Watson's Voice Is Sexy, writes Edith Zimmerman at The Hairpin: "Sort of soothing and mature, like he could take care of you. Like he could just really be in charge of you, forever. Plus he's so smart. Watson, are you reading this? Watson, are you always reading everything? : )"