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In 1997, there was a very famous chess match. The world champion chess player, Gary

Kasparov, went up against a special challenger: a computer.

The computer was called "Deep Blue" and it was built by IBM just to play chess. Deep Blue won the six-game chess match.

This year, IBM came up with a new challenge. They decided to build a computer that could match wits with two humans on a game show called Jeopardy. The computer is called "Watson", and its "brain power" is equal to thousands of home computers.

Playing chess is something computers can do very well because it relies on quickly deciding between different moves.

However, answering questions and understanding English is not something computers do well.

In Jeopardy, the questions may include riddles, puns and cultural references. These are things humans are good at, but computers are not.

That's because human language often uses pictures - metaphors - that don't always make sense when they're taken at face value.

For instance, if you said, "I ran like a deer!" your friend would know that you ran fast - not that you had four legs or were running through a forest. Computers need to "learn" those kinds of word pictures.

IBM wanted to prove they could make a computer that could understand many difficult things about the English language. Watson took on Jeopardy's two biggest all-time winners: Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

It took four years to get Watson ready to play humans on Jeopardy. Its memory banks are filled with encyclopaedias, the Internet movie database, New York Times articles and the Bible. It also knows thousands of correctly answered Jeopardy questions.

So, how did Watson do? Great! In fact, the computer won the two-day contest. But it wasn't a runaway victory.

In fact, the very first question was won by human contestant Brad Rutter. And Watson got some answers wrong. For instance, the computer incorrectly answered this question in the category "US cities":

"Its largest airport is named for a WWII hero; its second-largest for a WWII battle."

Watson answered: "Toronto". Toronto? That's not even a US city, it's the capital of Ontario, Canada! How could Watson have gotten that one so wrong?

It turns out that Watson was programmed to not think very much about the category, so it wasn't really thinking of a US city - it was focused on the WWII part of the question. Both humans answered correctly: Chicago. In any case, Watson went on to win that game.

In the second game, Watson knew most of the answers, but was just too slow buzzing in so the humans got a lot of points on him.

The fact that humans could figure out answers and buzz in more quickly than Watson, an extremely powerful computer, shows how complex the human brain really is.

By the end of game two, Watson had won the match with more than $77,000. Jennings came in second with a two-game total of $24,000 and Brad Rutter came third with $21,600.

What's next for Watson? Watson's Jeopardy win is historical. It means that computers can do much more than most people thought they could. Watson's "brain" will now be used in hospitals to diagnose and treat patients. It will also be used to give doctors information.


I. Put down + if the statement is true, - if it is false (2 points each).

1. Jeopardy is a game show created by Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

2. Watson helped show how complex the human brain is.

3. Watson's "brain power" is equal to a hundred home computers.

4. Deep Blue is a chess program designed by IBM.

5. Computers can easily understand idioms in the English language.

6. The computer incorrectly answered a question about a famous city in Canada.

7. The Jeopardy competition was two days long.

8. Watson was programmed to think very carefully about the question's category.

9. The humans answered many questions faster than the computer.

10. Watson won the first question.

II. Choose the correct letter (a, b or c) – (2 points each)

11. According to the article, questions in Jeopardy may include all of the following EXCEPT...

A. metaphors.

B. riddles.

C. cultural references.

12. It took years to prepare Watson for the game show.

A. four

B. around four

C. around fourteen

13. Watson's "brain" will be used by...

A. emergency dispatchers.

B. computer programmers.

C. health care professionals.

14. About which category did Watson answer a question incorrectly?

A. US cities.

B. Canadian capitals.

C. Famous airports.

15. Watson won the contest by about _______dollars.

A. $21,000

B. $77,000

C. $67,000

16. Choose the correct ranking of players, from last place to first place.

A. Rutter, Jennings, Watson.

B. Watson, Rutter, Jennings.

C. Jennings, Rutter, Watson.

17. The phrase "to get a lot of points on someone" most closely means...

A. to receive points from an opponent.

B. to earn more points than someone.

C. to transfer points to a different player.

18. The author would mostly likely agree that in the future, computers will...

A. take jobs away from humans.

B. replace the need for human doctors.

C. help professionals in certain fields.

19. Which US city's largest airport was named after a World War II hero?

A. Ontario.

B. Chicago.

C. Toronto.

20. If you had a "runaway victory," you could also say that you...

A. celebrated your victory by running.

B. barely defeated your opponent.

C. crushed your opponent.