Humans vs. Machines – Part I

There are technological advancements made on a daily basis but they are usually on a small scale that you don’t necessary notice their impact until much later. Yesterday was not one of those minor advancements. What Watson was able to do, parse through the English language and not only to be able to decipher what the question is asking but then deliver the correct question is nothing short of amazing.

As a scientist in the NYT article said yesterday, “The essence of being human involves asking questions, not answering them” – and you won’t find a more appropriate quote to suit this topic. Sure there will be mistakes like repeating an incorrect question or its programmers not loading in information about Harry Potter (shameful, really) but in no way do I have any trust in the way IBM handles this man versus machine type events. Let’s not forget how the situation was handled when Gary Kasparov was finally beaten by I.B.M.’s “Deep Blue,” in 1997.

Kasparov had figured out the logic behind the machine was going to exploit it to victory when in the middle of the match, they patched their machine to fix the loophole. What’s worse is that IBM refused to give Kasparov a rematch and never showcased Deep Blue again. Such a situation is unlikely to happen here as Watson is just fed the answers and isn’t going up against the other two contestants because it cannot understand whether they got it right or wrong but as the questions begin to become more difficult in days 2 and 3, I want to see how much the machines have really progressed.

In an age where humans are already being slowly replaced by computers and machines, this was just another step in that direction. You don’t have to look very far to see that machines have begun to replace people whether it is at an assembly line or a telephone operator to answer your calls. They may be heavy initial investments but are definitely cheaper than humans to maintain, they don’t require vacations and rarely miss work due to an illness or a virus. They have already made an impact in our daily lives where most of us cannot live without them, there will come a point in time when the question will be asked, can they survive without us?

576 Mile Commute To Work

Being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, it doesn’t happen very often that you get to see two of the top teams in the league battle it out but that’s what happened when I saw the Bruins play host to the San Jose Sharks. After a minor ticketing fiasco, we ended up sitting in box seats for the game which was a much better result than the nose-bleed section. The game had a couple of fights, plenty of scoring opportunities to get the home crowd excited but the result was a disappointing 2-0 loss. Take away that shutout loss for Boston, and they have scored 19 goals in their last 4 games – it just happens they don’t score anything the night I am there. It was my first ever game at TD Gardens but the arena is definitely worth a visit with all the memorabilia inside of the legendary Celtics, the Great #77 for the Bruins and even jerseys of Brady and Manning during their rivalry years.

On the other end is Green Bay – By far the smallest city to have a professional sports team is once again the champion. This marks only the second time since I moved out here to North America that a professional team out of the four major sports that I root for has won the championship – it was also the Packers in 1997. As I mentioned in an earlier post, The Blue Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993 when they won it all for a second year in a row, while the Leafs and Raptors have struggled just to make the playoffs this past decade, never mind being a contender to win it all.

I think I moved maybe once or twice from my seat once the game began and even tortured myself through the god-awful half time show just so I wouldn’t miss the beginning of the 2nd half especially since Pittsburgh had just scored to the end the half and the momentum was definitely beginning to shift. Most definitely the worst quarter to watch all season was the 3rd quarter. Packers struggled to do anything, punted on every single drive while gaining only 17 yards in the entire period.

What arguably feels like the longest week in a very, very long time is about to end. Last Friday I flew into Boston for the weekend to visit a friend to watch a hockey game and then the Super Bowl to see my beloved Packers play the Steelers. I was initially scheduled to come back from Boston Sunday night which I fortunately got changed to Monday morning. After having gone to bed after midnight, waking up at 4:30am and taking an hour and a half commute to the airport followed by a 100 minute wait and a 90 minute flight from the greatest airlines in North America (maybe outside of Jet Blue) and I was at work in Toronto at 11 – a lovely 576 mile international commute.

I don’t know how people in the US make those long commutes in NYC and Boston on a regular basis but I could never pull that off on a regular basis. Having spent the rest of the week playing Left 4 Dead 2 much later during the night than I really should have has really compounded my lethargic week. At least tomorrow is Friday which hopefully means I can sleep in at least one of the two days but knowing how my weekends go here, I really doubt it.