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Our new computer overlords

February 21st, 2011

Like many others, I watched Watson on Jeopardy last week, feeling a sense of simultaneous wonder and foreboding. Watson, for those of you who haven’t been keeping an eye on the rise of the machines, is a computer system built and programmed by IBM for the singular purpose of destroying… err umm…competing on Jeopardy as part of their most recent “Grand Computing Challenge.” Having experimented in building AIs before, I know it’s no easy feat to get a computer to understand people on a natural level. Granted, this was only me playing around for a few hours–not a team of mad computer scientists working for 3 years–but I’m sure we bumped up against the same hurdles.

I found it amusing that the category Watson seemed to have the most trouble with was the one relating to keys found on a keyboard. Also quite amusing, were the fairly significant wagers (in the digit sense), like the $937 (ish?) dollars wagered on Final Jeopardy. In the end, I’m sure they were the reflection of a sophisticated probabilistic calculation wherein I can only hope the variable for “killing all humans before my plug is pulled” was given fairly little weight.

Though, were I pitted against Watson, mano y machina, my compulsion would be to try to crash it with questions computers really have problems with:

This is the quotient of 3 / 0.

This is the third highest prime number.

You need to fill out the green form to get the blue form and you need to fill out the blue form to get the green form. This is the first form you need to fill out to get the green form.

And then there is the whole realm of SQL injection possibilities, which I would explore more deeply had I more faith in WordPress at the moment.

Musings, Visions

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