IBM has created a supercomputer named Watson who just beat the two greatest Jeopardy! champions of all time in a warmup match. PopSci has the story:
Watson, named after IBM's founder, is one epic supercomputer. To handle the formidable task that competing on Jeopardy! presents, IBM spent years constructing a computer with 2,800 Power7 cores. That power is absolutely necessary—a single-core CPU, like in many modern computers, takes about two hours to come up with an answer to a standard Jeopardy! question, rather than the three-second average Watson currently boasts.
A lot of the challenge in creating an algorithm that can answer Jeopardy! questions lies in the questions themselves—the language used in these questions is hardly ever simple, often incorporating wordplay, riddles, and irony—but there's an additional problem in the addition of risk. In a split-second, a competitor must assess confidence in the question, weigh that confidence against the penalty of getting it wrong, and decide of the question is worth answering based on those factors. That's an intuitive effort for a human, but Watson had to be programmed with some incredibly complex reasoning to be able to do the same thing.
Go read the whole thing. And you should note that Watson isn't connected to the internet, which means "he" is kind of doing this with one hand tied behind "his" back. This is so much scarier than Kasparov Vs. Deep Blue. Chess, basically, is a numbers game. Jeopardy! is a language game. I bet we're not that far away from a computer writing a John Grisham-like bestselling thriller.