A huge win for artificial intelligence … but what does it mean for humans?

Watson could help make internet searches more like a conversation than the hit-or-miss things they are now.

A gigantic computer created by IBM specifically to excel at answers-and-questions left two champs of the TV game show “Jeopardy!” in its silicon dust after a three-day tournament, a feat that experts call a technological breakthrough in artificial intelligence.

Now, the machine—called Watson—will be tested in two university medical centers to help doctors sift through large amounts of data quickly.

Watson earned $77,147, versus $24,000 for Ken Jennings and $21,600 for Brad Rutter. Jennings took it in stride, writing “I for one welcome our new computer overlords” alongside his correct Final Jeopardy answer.

The next step for the IBM machine and its programmers: taking its mastery of the arcane and applying it to help doctors plow through blizzards of medical information. Watson also could help make internet searches far more like a conversation than the hit-or-miss things they are now.

Watson’s victory leads to the question: What can we measly humans do that amazing machines cannot do or will never do?

The answer, like all of “Jeopardy!,” comes in the form of a question: Who—not what—dreamed up Watson? While computers can calculate and construct, they cannot decide to create. So far, only humans can.

Laura Ascione