It was a no-contest. The score read $77,147 to $21,600.

I was at the set that had been used on the popular American quiz show Jeopardy! where Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing system built to answer trivia questions posed in natural language, had beaten two human competitors in 2011. The set is now housed at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, US, where I was posing for a photograph with Watson as if I had been pitted against it on the show. At the press of a button, visitors get one of the scores from the last of three episodes in which the computer defeated two former Jeopardy! champions.


I hadn’t sought out Watson at the Computer History Museum just because I was an avid quizzer and a former winner of the quiz show Mastermind India. Until a few weeks earlier, I had worked at IBM on a project that involved using the technology that Watson was built on. As I stood on the set, I was conscious of several threads of my life intersecting: my academic and professional background in computer science, my interest in quizzing, and my weakness for history.

Babbage’s Difference Engine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons