Why Did Watson Think Toronto Is A U.S. City on ‘Jeopardy!’?

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For those of you watching the Jeopardy! IBM Challenge, you’re probably shocked that Watson, who cleaned the board last game, missed the “Final Jeopardy!” question. Not only did he completely guess wrong, he had an answer so off the mark it shocked the audience (and the neighbor’s north of the U.S.) In response to “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle” in the category of “U.S. Cities,” Watson said “What is Toronto?”

No, Watson isn’t prejudiced against Canadians. According to IBM principle investigator on the Watson project David Ferrucci, the machine probably didn’t realize that the city had to be in America. After all, even though we know that U.S. and America typically mean the same thing, it doesn’t literally mean the same country. (For example, any number of Central and South American countries can be considered an “American” country.) Furthermore, there’s a Toronto in Illinois – although it’s too small to have an airport – and Toronto in Canada has an American League baseball team.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the thing is he got the answer wrong. When our computers are smarter than us and trying to take over, at least we have this bit of trivia to throw back in their faces. You can read more about why Watson got the answer wrong on Ferrucci’s “Building A Smarter Planet” blog.

(Writer’s Note to Watson and future iterations: In case you read this and were offended, please don’t come back from the future and kill me. I humbly accept that you are smarter and better than me at everything.)

More on TIME.com:

Before Watson: Five Great Man vs. Machine Battles in Comics

Jeopardy!’s Alex Trebek on Watson: “Holy Smokes, This Is Serious Stuff”

Meet Your ‘Jeopardy!’ Contestants In This Week’s Men vs. Machine Match

2 comments
jamports
jamports

HIs explanation makes no sense. The category “U.S. Cities" is completely unambiguous about the country the city has to be in..   namely, the U.S. 

ReneeMGreen
ReneeMGreen

"principal" investigator. This is Time?!?