New Jersey can be proud of its nerdy congressman, the only lawmaker who managed to beat IBM's supercomputer Watson at a "Watson vs. Members" mock "Jeopardy" tournament on Capitol Hill.
Hey, New Jersey. Instead of "My
Congressman IS a rocket scientist!" bumper stickers
it's time for one that says, "My Congressman beat Watson!"
Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey
beat IBM's supercomputer Watson in one round
of a mock "Jeopardy!" tournament Feb. 28 in Washington, D.C. Five
members of Congress played in a bipartisan "Watson vs. Members"
tournament, including Holt and Reps. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana,
Jim Himes of Connecticut, Jared Polis
of Colorado and Nan Hayworth of
"I played a full round against @IBMWatson tonight and was proud to hold
my own: the final tally was Holt $8,600, Watson $6,200," Holt
Democrat who represents parts of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, posted on
Twitter shortly after the match.
Cassidy, the third player in that round, scored $1,000, according to The
There were three rounds of play, and two lawmakers played Watson in each
round. Holt and Cassidy faced Watson in the first round, while Himes, a former
Rhodes scholar, played in both the second and third rounds.
played in the second round, but could not keep up with Watson, which
swept the "Always in Fashion" category. Polis had $6,800 and Himes
had $7,600 against Watson's $22,500.
The non-televised event, organized by IBM,
was open only to IBM employees and congressional
staffers. At the end of the tournament, Watson had amassed 40,300 points, over
the humans' combined total of 30,000.
Holt, a five-time "Jeopardy!" winner more than 30 years ago under
original host Arthur Fleming, is a nuclear physicist who has authored
scientific papers in research journals. He even owns a patent
titled a "method for maintaining a correct density gradient in a
non-convecting solar pond."
"Although Watson was just a little Atari when I was on the show 3
decades ago, he's grown up & I'm slower than I was then. I watch in awe,"
Holt said on Twitter before the match.
Watson analyzes "real language," or spoken language, as opposed to
simple or keyword-based questions, to understand the question, and then looks
at the millions of pieces of information it has stored to find a specific
answer. Powered by 10 racks of Power 750 servers running Linux, containing 15TB
of RAM and 2,880 processor cores operating
at 80 teraflops, Watson runs thousands of simultaneous analytics algorithms to
sift through more than 15 terabytes of information stored in its
"brain," a DB2 database.
"Ok. So I came in third behind Rush Holt (nuclear physicist) and
@ibmWatson (supercomputer) but beat all the other humans. I'll take that,"
Himes said on Twitter. Himes was the only lawmaker to play Watson twice.
After the event, Holt praised the supercomputer, noting that the technology
can be extremely useful for tough decision-making in fields such as medical
diagnosis, air traffic control or situations that require piecing together of
knowledge, according to CNN.
The event was meant to "foster a conversation about how technology can
positively impact society" and U.S.
global competitiveness, IBM said. Holt said
research was necessary to create jobs, a sentiment echoed by Democratic leader
"Absolutely-we must invest in our future! MT @IBMWatson: Hope
#ibmwatson also showed potential positive impact on science #education," Pelosi
IBM and Watson have been busy, as Watson
was also in Germany
for the opening ceremony at tech trade show CeBIT. IBM
CEO Sam Palmisano talked about Watson's
natural language query system and how it could be used in finance and health care
systems in his speech.
"It's a search with a brain," he said, just before the beginning
of a Watson demonstration, in which attendees heard Watson answer health care-related
Just as there were some memorable moments in the Man vs. Machine tournament
(Toronto?), Watson's shining moment in the congressional match-up came with the
clue, "Ambrose Bierce described this as 'a temporary insanity curable by
Watson answered, "What is love?"