Your RDA of Irony

Sunday Sundry

Those of you who share a hemisphere with me will know that Jeopardy is holding a most unusual tournament.  An IBM program called Watson will compete against two of the game’s greatest players.  And, no, neither is me.  According to the unavoidable publicity this is the showdown between mankind and the computer.  The fate of our species will be determined!   

Except…mankind already lost six years ago when Jeopardy changed its rules.  For the first 800 years of the show, even the most belligerent know-it-all was limited to five games.  More than that, and a player might be accused of sorcery or sleeping with Merv Griffin.  Jeopardy’s allure was intellectual: test your wits against your vanity.  Yes, any prize money was welcome but it wasn’t remotely as important as the cerebral glory.  And with a five-game limit, you couldn’t count on a fortune or a career.  Jeopardy was just a gratifying adventure.

But then, in 2004, Jeopardy changed the rules; a contestant could keep playing until he lost or died on the set.  Changing that rule changed the nature of the players.  Until then, the champions had been Victorian dilettantes.  Now, they increasingly seemed like Germanic cyborgs.  One 19-game winner dispensed with the anachronism of courtesy; he never bothered to shake hands with his fellow contestants.

So Watson won’t be the only mechanism competing this week.  (Of course, I will be vicariously playing–but I always do.)

And let’s not forget the historic significance of this day–a pre-Valentine warning:

  1. Rafferty Barnes says:

    O tempora! O mores!

  1. There are no trackbacks for this post yet.

Leave a Reply