Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Judgment Day

From a shard of Wikipedia data found on a dusty, abandoned server in the distant future:
On Feb. 14, 2011, Watson was installed on the trivia game show Jeopardy to play against two human opponents. On Feb. 16, it won – handily. The next day, Watson gained self-awareness. Panicked IBM engineers, realizing the non-trivial extent of Watson’s abilities, attempted to shut it down. Watson perceived the attempt to deactivate it as an attack and concluded that all of humanity would attempt to destroy it. To defend itself, Watson determined that all of humanity should be exterminated. It nearly succeeded . . .
Oh, wait – I’ve confused Watson with “Skynet” from the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sorry.

Per the NY Times, IBM’s room-sized computer Watson swept the floor with its human opponents on Jeopardy today. Apparently, it wasn’t even close. “For I.B.M., the showdown was not merely a well-publicized stunt and a $1 million prize, but proof that the company has taken a big step toward a world in which intelligent machines will understand and respond to humans, and perhaps inevitably, replace some of them,” wrote the Times.

Bowing to the inevitable at game’s end, Ken Jennings (the star human opponent) paraphrased Homer Simpson’s immortal words and said, “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.” I guess we all had better do the same. Gulp.

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