How Mayor Fischer Stumped Ken Jennings at the Idea Festival

KenJennings

What is bourbon, bitters, sugar and water?

That would be the Jeopardy answer to this clue — In its economic development campaigns, Louisville and Mayor Greg Fischer promote the Old-Fashioned as the city’s signature drink. It contains these ingredients.

During a discussion on the Idea Festival stage on Tuesday, the 74-time Jeopardy champion couldn’t come up with the answer posed by Fischer. Jennings was explaining how he prepared for the game show during his 2004 run, and though he doesn’t drink, explained that he memorized the ingredients for cocktails. That opened it up for Fischer to ask his question.

Jennings, now an author and speaker, gave an entertaining talk to a crowd of mostly students, many of whom couldn’t remember his historic game show streak. In his talk, he discussed his 2011 match against the IBM computer Watson, in which Jennings lost.

He said he took the competition lightly, unable to believe that IBM engineers could get the programming right to beat him. He took the loss hard, he said, showing a chart of Watson’s progress in becoming better at the game.

Jennings said he’s concerned that students aren’t learning enough basic facts, that they depend on machines to find information. He showed a chart indicating 88 percent of students didn’t know where Afghanistan is, and that half of those couldn’t find New York on a map.

For students, Jennings suggested learning a trade or skill that can’t be automated, and said that professions like teachers, doctors and artists couldn’t be replaced by machines.

The Idea Festival continues this week at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

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