“Who is Bram Stoker?” Those three words demonstrated the amazing potential of artificial intelligence. It was the answer to a final question in a particularly memorable 2011 episode of Jeopardy!. The three competitors were former champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, and Watson, a super computer developed by IBM. By answering the final question correctly, Watson became the first computer to beat a human on the famous quiz show.
“In a way, Watson winning Jeopardy! seemed unfair to people,” says Jeehwan Kim, the Class ‘47 Career Development Professor and a faculty member of the MIT departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. “At the time, Watson was connected to a super computer the size of a room while the human brain is just a few pounds. But the ability to replicate a human brain’s ability to learn is incredibly difficult.”