Turns out, making time to read the Times was totally worth it, although this article is free online.
Basically, computer scientists have programed a supercomputer named Watson (not yr dad’s supercomputer, a new one – so you can chew on what that means) to interpret English syntax well enough to answer Jeopardy! questions using a shitload of data uploaded from books, magazines, and newspapers (all the stuff we don’t have time to read ((yet))).
While it’s far from perfect, there’s definitely some potential here for the same sort of freakish synapse connections we make when we play with language and such and !
par oft an ongoing series, wherein my friend Danielle watches Jeopardy! and then emails me a diary of her concerns.
Oh my God, Alex Trebek has totally crossed the line now. First of all, the panel must have the lowest combined age of all time, and they’re attractive too. It’s like for one magical day someone parted the dark, pendulous storm clouds that hang eternally over the Jeopardy! set, and the light shone down upon these three rare specimens. And this totally sexy-librarian type is answering almost every single question; I mean she’s killing it. And as hot as that is, I almost feel bad for the dudes because they seem, of all things, pretty okay. Anyway, the girl just goes on smoking these guys’ asses and at the first commercial break I’m like, You know, there’s something magically rad about this episode. Okay, so: commercial break, and then back to the show, and as they zoom in on the set, I’m feeling pretty sweet. And then I realize that Alex has moved from his podium. He is standing next to the cool, nerdy girl, asking himself the question that–let’s face it, I watch a lot of Jeorpardy! and I think we can both agree that I really get it, so just trust me–could–nay, will– change her life forever: Of all the dumb facts on this gay blue card, which can I use to bring the greatest shame and humiliation upon this woman and her family? “She has a Master’s degree in something that I think would be very, very useful and important in this day and age”? Really? What? It seems that Alex is actually quite taken with her and not at all his usually you-look-like-someone-who’s-got-a-vagina-so-it’s-time-to-think-of-a-way-to-make-you-feel-bad-about-yourself self. It turns out that her degree was in Plant,Soil, and Environmental Science, but she was in the sustainable agriculture program doing good for the underdog but helping small farm farmers reduce their reliance on herbicides. “Okay, so what’s the best way to do that?” he asks. Really? What? Fill me in on the major findings of your master’s thesis and do be aware that I will interrupt you almost immediately? It’s like he’s an asshole by accident whenever he’s not busy being an asshole on purpose. So she handles fine and says “Be careful” which is kind of whatever, but okay at least you said something. And then Alex says, “That’s it? Just be careful?” RRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. He ruined the whole show for me.
[the following appeared a few minutes later in a separate email. -ed.]
The guy next to the environmental scientist just graduated from business school, where he studied marketing, and Alex tells him, Good for you, good for you.
Friends, here is the first of what I hope will be many and several “field reports” on the current state of Jeopardy! from my friend Danielle, who is the most incisive Jeopardy! watcher I know. Her socio-critical critique of Alex, the contestants, and everything else about the show is so dead-on and so consistenly furious, the only question you’re really ever left with is “why is she still watching something she hates this much?” The answer is simple: because Jeopardy! is one of the greatest television shows of all time. Danielle’s preferred forum for Jeopardy! studies is a live, collaborative environment resulting in a spontaneous, non-documented performance (that is to say: we sit on her couch, we watch Jeopardy! together and make fun of it, while trying to time our insults such that we can still keep pace with the game). Therefore, we are very lucky to have this record of her work.
“The Jeopardy! I’m Watching…”
…is like this bizarre, Lynchian masterpiece. Someone behind the scenes here was like “Hey how can I create some kind of embedded storyline that involves mining three nauseatingly awkward characters for all the pathos they’ve got” and his coworker was like “Well, we’ve got those contestants…” and the first guy said “Hey what if they had like a REALLY bad therapist?” and the coworker was all “I think I might have just the guy for the part…”and the past week or two have been like this long, dragged-out pilot episode of New Jeopardy! I mean, someone put these people out of their misery! Through some miracle they’ve managed to make it through the saddest life ever long enough to finally be on jeopardy, which is like at the very top of their list of stupendously compromised hopes and dreams, and then as soon as that first commercial break is over…POW! Sayonara LOSER! But the characters are like real weirdos. Not quite like Dennis Hopper wearing a gas mask weirdos, but not quite not like that kind either.