David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Mr. Watson, Go Away, I Don't Need You

February 15, 2011: "Mr. Watson, go away, I don't need you." 

Well, after watching two days (well, more like 1 1/2 days, I couldn't make it through the whole thing on day 1) that make up the colossal Jeopardy infomercial for IBM, I can't help but wish for some alternate programming (perhaps Wipeout featuring human contestants going up against dogs).

Look, there's no doubt that humans can design computers that can process information much more quickly than we do. And there's no doubt that these machines can help us in so many ways.  But to trot out this travesty that is Watson vs. two humans in a game is clearly a waste of time and energy (I'll take "Not Green" for $1000, Alex.  The "answer", how much energy is Watson expending?  Perhaps Alex can give us that information tomorrow when the t.v show trots out the same extended opening explaining for the third time how we got to such a momentous occasion.). Despite the explanation that IBM wanted to make a computer that could understand the nuances of language, most answers still seem determined via the giant search engine that is either our brains or Watson's microchips (if I have the wrong technological term, forgive me).

I have yet to decide which is more awkward:  watching Ken and Brad look very uncomfortable in playing their parts in this charade, or watching the audience, apparently packed with IBM staff, get excited as Watson charges through the competition, and then gasp in collective horror when Watson gets the Final Jeopardy question wrong (Toronto is not a U.S. City.  Unless the programmers wanted to give Watson a sense of humor, there is at least one bit to correct).

Believe me, I am impressed by what we can do with computers.  It is a testament to human knowledge and ingenuity to create these super machines.  I just don't need what has been a two-month advertisement for it.

This conversation can serve no purpose anymore.  Goodbye.