And yet Watson’s creators say this breakthrough gives them an extra appreciation for the magnificent machines we call people.

“I see human intelligence consuming machine intelligence, not the other way around,” said David Ferrucci, IBM’s lead researcher on Watson. “Humans are a different sort of intelligence. Our intelligence is so interconnected. The brain is so incredibly interconnected with itself, so interconnected with all the cells in our body, and has co-evolved with language and society and everything around it.”

He added: “Humans are learning machines that live and experience the world and take in an enormous amount of information—what they see, what they taste, what they feel, and they’re taking that in from the day they’re born until the day they die. And they’re learning from all the input all the time. We’ve never even created something that attempts to do that.”

The ability of a machine to learn is the essence of the field of artificial intelligence. And there have been great advances in the field, but nothing near human thinking.

“I’ve been in this field for 25 years, and no matter what advances we make, it’s not like we feel we’re getting to the finish line,” said Carnegie Mellon University professor Eric Nyberg, who has worked on Watson with its IBM creators since 2007. “There’s always more you can do to bring computers to human intelligence. I’m not sure we’ll ever really get there.”

Bart Massey, a professor of computer science at Portland State University, quipped: “If you want to build something that thinks like a human, we have a great way to do that. It only takes like nine months and it’s really fun.”