A growing number of tech­nol­o­gists around the world say that com­puters with super­human intel­li­gence are more than three decades away.

Try telling that to trivia champs Ken Jen­nings and Brad Rutter, who lost to IBM’s Watson super­com­puter in a spe­cial, three-​​day Jeop­ardy! com­pe­ti­tion this week.

IBM, which part­ners with North­eastern on sev­eral global ini­tia­tives, made Wednesday’s finale an event on campus, fea­turing a public viewing in the Curry Stu­dent Center that brought out a crowd of 200. They watched the smooth-​​talking machine—the first com­puter able to under­stand nat­ural language—defeat the game-​​show geeks, who have won more than $6 mil­lion on the pop­ular question-​​answer quiz show.

As part of the evening, IBM researchers dis­cussed Watson’s poten­tial to trans­form the health-​​care industry. The talk turned to action on Thursday, when IBM announced a part­ner­ship with Nuance Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to develop a pro­gram using Watson’s ana­lyt­ical com­puting system to help doc­tors instantly diag­nose patients.

It’s not about the game show,” Peter Lynt, a 1983 grad­uate of the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion and IBM’s gen­eral man­ager of global busi­ness process delivery, told people who attended the event. “It’s about what we will do to bring this tech­nology to industries.”

Watson, which runs on 90 servers and can access 200 mil­lion pages of con­tent, now fills a large room. In five years, it will be about the size of a smart phone, said Lynt.

Stu­dents echoed Lynt’s opti­mism about the impact of super­com­puters on society. Matt Strax-​​Haber, a junior com­puter sci­ence major, said com­puters like Watson will make people’s jobs easier, not obsolete.

He pointed to the printing press as an example of tech­nology that trans­formed the way we do busi­ness and opened up new oppor­tu­ni­ties for innovation.

These com­puters could change things dra­mat­i­cally and affect the market,” said Strax-​​Haber, a market-​​engineering co-​​op for IBM’s office in Lit­tleton, Mass. “They have the poten­tial to help humanity as a whole.”

From tax soft­ware to smart phones, he said, “our usage has already improved our lives greatly.”

The Northeastern/​ IBM part­ner­ship includes an inno­v­a­tive inter­na­tional co-​​op pro­gram that places stu­dents in project man­age­ment roles at IBM facil­i­ties in the Philip­pines, Argentina and Costa Rica, and an online MBA pro­gram North­eastern designed for IBM employees in India and China.