16 February 2011

in the news - artificial intelligence/IBM watson

The past three days of Jeopardy and the buzz surrounding the IBM computer Watson has caused me some concern. I am beginning to question how far technology will grow in the next few years... how many jobs will be lost due to advancements in technology? It is really crazy if you think about it. Just think about how far we have come in the past ten years. When I was 16 years old, the only "cell" phones that existed were the bagged car phones. America Online started about that year or relatively soon before then... and I realize I'm old, but I'm not that old.

In the span of 15 years, technology has created the bag phone... the "Zack Morris" phone... the flip Motorola phone... my ginormous (& yellow, I might add) Nokia... the Blackberry... the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad... Google... Facebook, MySpace, FourSquare, LinkedIN... Internet dating sites... Skyppe... digital TV... DVR... and the list goes on and on and on. It is remarkable when you really think about all of the things that have been created in the past fifteen years.

For those of you who live in a cave and aren't aware of IBM's supercomputer Watson... here is the info in a nutshell:

"While Watson's ability to understand questions, buzz in, and give a correct answer might seem very human-like, the actual tech behind Watson (dubbed "DeepQA" by IBM) is very computer-ey. Watson has thousands of algorithms it runs on the questions it gets, both for comprehension and for answer formulation. The thing is, instead of running these sequentially and passing along results, Watson runs them all simultaneously and compares all the myriad results at the end, matching up a potential meaning for the question with a potential answer to the question. The algorithms are backed up by vast databases, though there's no active connection to the internet -- that seems like it would be cheating, in Jeopardy terms.

Much of the brute force of the IBM approach (and why it requires a supercomputer to run) is comparing the natural language of the questions against vast stores of literature and other info it has in its database to get a better idea of context -- it has a dictionary, but dictionary definitions of words don't go very far in Jeopardy or in regular human conversation. Watson learns over time which algorithms to trust in which situation (is this a geography question or a cute pun?), and presents its answers with a confidence level attached -- if the confidence in an answer is high enough, it buzzes in and wins Trebek Dollars." -info taken from this article."

Jeopardy paired up Watson with two of its most famous contestants - Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Ken Jennings appeared on the show 74 times before he was defeated. Brad Rutter has never lost a game and has earned a total amount of $3,270,102 on the show. 

 Ken Jennings

Brad Rutter

The past three nights of Jeopardy, Watson, Jennings, and Rutter, have competed against each other... ultimately, to determine if Watson is capable of beating them. Monday night spent a great deal of time informing the audience about what Watson actually is and how he was built. The actual game only lasted one round. Tuesday, they continued the game by playing round two and Double Jeopardy. Watson got the Final Jeopardy question wrong... but still managed to win by the amount wagered. Tonight, was the final night... game two... and Watson won again.

This is mind boggling to me. I wouldn't be as impressed if the internet was involved... because you can find anything on the internet. But, I must admit that it is impressive that the computer can understand the puns that are involved in some of those Jeopardy categories. However, I did read an article online today which stated that during the tapings of the show... they had to stop for breaks because Watson crashed and had to be re-booted. Nevertheless, it is remarkable. A bit scary... but remarkable.

What is even more frightening than a computer who is smarter than Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter? TIME's 5 predictions on our robotic future. I won't get into the boring details of it all.... but this is what they predict:

1. Computers will think like humans do by the end of the 2020s.

2. The Singularity (which according to the article means: people will merge with computers to become "super intelligent cyborgs") will occur in 2045.

3. After the Singularity, humans will become functionally immortal.

4. ...And we will be able to bring the dead back to life.

5. And finally, we (as humans) will cease to exist.

Firstly, I agree that computers could possibly have the capacity to think like humans by the end of the 2020s. It is possible. BUT-- no computer will ever truly feel emotions (sure they could replicate that emotion--falsify it--but not make it genuine) like happiness, love, sadness, regret, etc... because they are not humans. 

Secondly, some people may be merging with computers to become cyborgs... but I can tell you one thing right now... I ain't (yes, ain't) merging with anything to become a cyborg. I don't care if that makes me the stupidest southern girl on the planet. God didn't intend for me to be some freak half-human/half-robot creature. He intended me to be the woman that I am... and they will have to kill me before I agree to such nonsense.

Thirdly, I do not want to be functionally immortal and I think that statement is complete hogwash anyway. I will agree they are developing top of the line procedures and finding great advances in medicine and I am all for that. I am all for using top technology to find a cure for lukemia so the sweet little five year girl who just got diagnosed has promises of a full life with Proms, and weddings, and children of her own. However, I am not for technology creating some kind of crazy mess that makes us immortal. God didn't put us here on the planet to live forever. He put us here for a purpose... and once that purpose has been fulfilled... it is my time to go baby... and I'm going gladly.

Fourthly and Fifthly... God is going to take me home before any of that other mess hits... bringing the dead back to life and humans ceasing to exist. Oh yeah... the only humans that will be ceasing to exist at that time are the ones that didn't get themselves right with the Lord. Amen.

No comments :

Post a Comment