AI vs Jeopordy

Semiotics, my dear Watson

The image of the Watson computer playing jeopardy is interesting to examine. Located in the middle of two human players, the Watson computer answering program is a supercomputer designed to answer questions using “natural language” developed by IBM’s DeepQA department (Ziegler et al. 1996). The program is designed to provide optimal answering of questioning using Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that makes answering questions informed directly by a text search algorithm similar to that of a Google search (Kelly, 2014). The program is designed to provide information that is connected to a database and allows users to develop questions and answers, and the semiotics of the supercomputer playing jeopardy contains some interesting underlying connotations. For starters, it shows how far AI has come and the obsession we have with the fear that computers will one day “out do” humanity. By positioning the computer in the middle of the two human players, the image signifies how far computers have come in developing certain intelligent characteristics.

It shows that while computers have become very efficient at accessing and analyzing databases, they have so far been unable to examine and critically relate to information in creative ways. This image represents that computers have become capable of at least competing with humans when it comes to recalling information, but that they ultimately lack the critical thinking skills necessary to suppress the cognitive and creative potential of humans. It can be argued that the image of the Watson computer playing jeopardy against the two humans has the semiotic connotation that computers have become so far advanced as able to compete with humans, but that nevertheless this remains in a very limited aspect of intelligence that has little to do with creative and nonlinear thinking. This image is therefore interesting to consider how it relates to programming society and the role of computers in developing cognitive informational database thinking.

Work Cited

Kelly, K. (2014). The three breakthroughs that have finally unleashed AI on the world. Wired


Ziegler, J. F., Curtis, H. W., Muhlfeld, H. P., Montrose, C. J., Chin, B., Nicewicz, M., … &

LaFave, L. E. (1996). IBM experiments in soft fails in computer electronics (1978–1994).

IBM journal of research and development, 40(1), 3–18.

Watson Computer Jeopardy: