You might have heard that Watson, IBM's Jeopardy-playing computer, is having its way with Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings. The first two days of the three-day competition ran through one complete game. In that game, Watson racked up $35,734, as opposed to Rutter's $10,400 and Jennings' $4,800. Today, Day 3, will feature a second and final match.
What you might not know is where the money won in the game is ultimately going. Watson, of course, has no use for such human things as money. Perhaps it may know that 'making it rain' doesn't necessarily mean producing liquid water precipitation, but it can't actually perform the act. Therefore, everyone's playing for charity: Rutter and Jennings pledging half their winnings, IBM pledging all of theirs. The winner will get $1 million, second place $300,000, and third place $200,000.
So what charities are getting that money?
Rutter will be donating to the Lancaster County Community Foundation in Pennsylvania, which hands out grants to a variety of projects across the county.
Jennings will be donating to VillageReach. They work to provide healthcare to remote communities in developing nations, as well as improve access to these communities (so as to make it easier to provide healthcare access), with a home office in Seattle and field offices in Mozambique and Malawi. They've been ranked #1 in international charities by reviewer GiveWell, and would almost certainly beat out the top-rated domestic charity as well.
Half of Watson's winnings will be going to World Vision, a general-purpose organization in developing nations, providing emergency relief, building up communities, and so forth. They also advertise a child-sponsorship program, but that aspect came into question when, in 2008, Andrew Geoghegan of Foreign Correspondent, a program on Australia's ABC, visited his sponsor child, Tsehaynesh Delago of Ethiopia, and found that, despite that World Vision had claimed, Delago spoke no English and had only recieved as direct support a pen and a denim jacket.
The other half of Watson's winnings is going to my favorite of the four, World Community Grid. They host a number of large-scale research projects, and ask anyone that happens by to donate their computer downtime. When your computer enters sleep mode, it is then given a small chunk of a research project to work on, and will stop when you start using your computer again for your own selfish, greedy, self-serving purposes. Among the most notable of these projects is Folding@Home, which, if you own a Playstation 3, you might already be familiar with.
If you've got any downtime on hand, you can head over right now, pick out a favorite project- AIDS, cancer, clean water, clean energy, muscular dystrophy, dengue fever- and hook your computer up. Doesn't cost a dime; it's like installing a screensaver.
If none of those projects looks good to you, there's another place, BOINC, that offers up another batch to pick from.