[Beowulf] IBM's Watson on Jeopardy tonight

Lux, Jim (337C) james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Wed Feb 16 08:51:51 PST 2011

It was too bad they didn't reveal how the computer set its dollar values
for daily doubles.  They were very, very different from what a human
would have wagered.  My impression was that one factor was how well it
was doing in that category, so if it had already answered some questions
right it would bet more than when it hit the daily double on the first
question.  There is apparently a rule in Jeopardy that a wager cannot
bet less than $5 on a daily double, and since the regular questions are
all multiples of ten, this may have factored in somehow to result in
machine wagers that ended in 5.

>>>  when you are a contestant, the help you get from the staff is twofold:
a) how to buzz in effectively
b) how to bet
-- they can't help with the questions, obviously, and, in any case, you wouldn't be there if you weren't already an information sponge. (my kids' term)

They go over betting strategy a LOT.. when to jump to the bottom of the board.  What to bet on a daily double or final jeopardy? if you're in second or third and way behind, bet the farm less a dollar.. if you go negative you go home without anything.. stay at $1, and you get whatever prizes there are..  If you're in close 2nd, it's more dicey.. you have to think about what the first place player is going to bet.. you want to be optimistic.. if you get it right, you want a chance of winning, so you have to bet at least 1 dollar more than the amount you're behind...

The strategy on daily doubles is different than on final, because it's only YOU choosing the bet, while on final, everyone bets.


It was also interesting that the second answer on the machine's list was
often clearly ruled out by the question, yet would have a probability
like 30%.  The only example of this I remember gave a year in the 1600's
and asked who the Lucasian Chair was at that time.  The machine did pick
Newton, but its second best answer was Stephen Hawking, who was
obviously not around at the time.  A human would have put one of
Newton's contemporaries in that spot, and probably not remembering the
occupants of that chair before and after Newton (neither of whom was
remotely as famous), might have listed somebody like Robert Hooke, who
was better known than either of them, and more likely to be remembered
by somebody with a good background in Science, but not a PhD in the
history of mathematics.


David Mathog
mathog at caltech.edu
Manager, Sequence Analysis Facility, Biology Division, Caltech
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