Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jeopardy quiz show was lots of fun

The Jeopardy quiz show was lots of fun. I refer especially to the shows featuring IBM's natural language computer. It was fun to watch, not for the answers, but for the players, and by that I mean the host, and the IBM programmers interviewed. The conclusion to the game seems to be that the computer beat the people playing the game. But that is not what happened, and thereby lies entertainment on another level.
The answers Watson the computer, gave, were easy because all the answers in its databanks were "correct." The computer could only chose to answer the question based on picking an answer supplied in some gigaencyclopedic dump. Nothing required an intelligence that observed, that experimented, that could come up with something new. Neither can a human, of course, using their own binary verbal intelligence. But while humans can come up with answers regardless of their own pervasive ignorance of their intellectual wiring, a computer can only, ever, rearrange the pieces on the board, the chalk lines on the grass, and never really deal with the new, that breath of the future that prevents the whole house of cards from collapsing on itself. Jan Cox found the whole idea of artificial intelligence amusing, and I suspect my points above may have been part of the reason.

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