I’m sure this is a big deal for computer science, but the fact that
Dr. Richard Daystrom’s M5 IBM’s computer, Watson, won at Jeopardy doesn’t surprise me much. I was on the show, in 1996 or ’97, and success is based almost entirely on your reflexes — i.e., pushing the buzzer as soon as Trebek finishes reading the question, er, the answer. (I came in second, winning a dining-room set and other fabulous parting gifts, which I had to sell to pay the taxes on them.)
The benefit to society would come if we could turn Alex Trebek into Captain Dunsel.