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?