Thursday, February 17, 2011
Well, I'm going to steal a quick news article. We may not have our warp drives or teleporters yet, but we recently got a good deal closer to the world pictured by Star Trek. In a special exhibition show on "Jeopardy!", an I.B.M. supercomputer named "Watson" defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter -- two well-known Jeopardy champions. After realizing that Watson's lead was too great to overtake, under his correct Final Jeopardy answer Ken Jennings wrote "I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords" (taking the line from a Simpsons episode).
It's interesting living in in a world where Deep Blue can defeat Kasparov, and Watson can best Jennings; where we find directions from Google rather than from a map, and where someone can print and bind a book as cheaply as a library can lend it. (FYI, as I understand, it costs the Harvard library about $3 every time someone checks out a book (mostly for paperwork and re-stocking), but the Internet Archive bookmobile can download, print and bind a book for just about $1.)
I.B.M. is looking at using this question answering technology as a programmable physician's assistant. It's admittedly next to impossible to predict upcoming innovations like this, but I'd like to ask where else you see things like this leading? Where do you think this kind of technology will go, and how will it affect daily life? Is this technology going to go down as a major breakthrough, or do you see it as essentially Google / Wolfram Alpha with voice recognition? What else do you see computers doing in the near future?