Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Physicist-Congressman Keeps the Computer Overlords at Bay

Though Jeopardy! champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter publicly crumbled under the superiority of IBM's Watson in a three-day Jeopardy! show-down, one physicist has quietly stepped up to keep the computer overlords* at bay. His name is Rep. Rush Holt, U.S. Congressman from New Jersey.

"For him, it was fun," Zach Goldberg, the Congressman's communications director, said by phone.

It may have been fun for the Congressman, but those who fear the robot revolution and subsequent world takeover are breathing a sigh of relief at the victory of what Holt called "neuron-based thinking, as opposed to circuit-based thinking" when he accepted a standing ovation at a House Natural Resource Committee hearing, according to Politico.

Holt battled Watson along with several other congressional members in an exhibition Jeopardy! match on Monday. He and Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana took on the seemingly omniscient computer in the first round, during which Holt amassed $8,600 (virtual) to Watson's $6,200. The congressional team eventually lost the game after other members of Congress took over for Double and then Final Jeopardy!

Holt, who was a five-time Jeopardy winner 35 years ago, worked as assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory before he began his congressional campaign in 1998. The research facility is the largest at Princeton University, according to the Congressman's website, and is also the largest center for alternative energy research in the state of New Jersey. Holt earned a bachelor's in physics from Carleton College and got his master's and Ph.D. at NYU. He also worked as a teacher, a Congressional Science Fellow and an arms control expert for the U.S. State Department. He is also an APS fellow.

"I was proud to hold my own with Watson," Holt said in a press release. "More importantly, I was proud to join IBM and other members of Congress to highlight the importance of technology. It was fun to out-do Watson in the first round, but this was not just about fun and games. Science and math education and research and development are vital to our nation."

*During the third day of competition between Jennings, Rutter and Watson, Jennings wrote on his Final Jeopardy! wager, "I for one welcome our new computer overlords," perhaps attempting to appease any would-be robot revolutionaries.


  1. Technology is changing and updating itself at a breakneck speed and as a result of this, unimaginable things are now not only becoming possible but also extremely convenient.

  2. Computer technology has changed our lives far beyond imagination. There's no stopping it now. The future will probably have more robots than people working in the manufacturing industry.