Updates

The rest of the story on recent posts. . . .

The computer named Watson ended up wiping the floor with the human used-to-be champions on Jeopardy. The human race is evidently doomed. So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president? What does this mean?

The Patriot Act, which gives the government expanded wiretapping and surveillance powers in fighting terrorism, is being extended, for three to ten months, depending on how the Senate Bill and the House Bill are reconciled. But both houses voted for extension. Earlier, as we discussed, some Tea Party Republicans led by Rand Paul joined with liberal democrats to stop the bill. But that was for a special fast-track approval that required a supermajority vote. The House subsequently passed the bill under the normal majority-vote process.

The Borders bookstore chain has filed for bankruptcy.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • WebMonk

    Oh bother. Veith I hope you were purposefully making silly statements about Watson to stir up comments. I really, really hope you actually know better than what was written.

  • WebMonk

    Oh bother. Veith I hope you were purposefully making silly statements about Watson to stir up comments. I really, really hope you actually know better than what was written.

  • Tom Hering

    Watson is an idiot savant. It can play Jeopardy! really well, but that’s about it.

  • Tom Hering

    Watson is an idiot savant. It can play Jeopardy! really well, but that’s about it.

  • Dan Kempin

    “So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president?”

    We would need to see his birth certificate.

  • Dan Kempin

    “So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president?”

    We would need to see his birth certificate.

  • WebMonk

    Tom, you must have missed out on many of the stories about Watson, because Watson is primarily planned on doing massive search and analysis on unstructured data with natural-language searches, initially in medical fields.

    The doctor says to Watson, “I have a patient with AAA and BBB symptoms, and his medical history is with ID 123456789. What’s up with him?”

    Watson replies with something like “John Doe is likely suffering from XYZ based on blah, blah, blah.”

    The doctor takes a look at the primary sources from which Watson got his answer, does a couple more natural language queries with Watson to instantly find the medical texts he would like to reference, double-checks them with the patient’s medical history records, and gets the patient in for treatment within a couple minutes instead of a couple hours.

    You’ve probably seen Star Trek the Next Generation, right? Think of Watson as a nascent version of the computer running the Enterprise – able to handle just about any sort of question and give back excellent answers, or carry out nearly any sort of command, all using idiomatic natural language interactions.

    Jeopardy was just a publicity stunt to advertise his capabilities – Watson is WAY beyond just playing Jeopardy.

    Ever had to find something on the computer but can’t remember exactly where it was or what it was named, or even exactly what was in it? You could say, “I had a file with notes about a meeting a couple months ago, something about new customers or something.” Watson could find the file which you want.

  • WebMonk

    Tom, you must have missed out on many of the stories about Watson, because Watson is primarily planned on doing massive search and analysis on unstructured data with natural-language searches, initially in medical fields.

    The doctor says to Watson, “I have a patient with AAA and BBB symptoms, and his medical history is with ID 123456789. What’s up with him?”

    Watson replies with something like “John Doe is likely suffering from XYZ based on blah, blah, blah.”

    The doctor takes a look at the primary sources from which Watson got his answer, does a couple more natural language queries with Watson to instantly find the medical texts he would like to reference, double-checks them with the patient’s medical history records, and gets the patient in for treatment within a couple minutes instead of a couple hours.

    You’ve probably seen Star Trek the Next Generation, right? Think of Watson as a nascent version of the computer running the Enterprise – able to handle just about any sort of question and give back excellent answers, or carry out nearly any sort of command, all using idiomatic natural language interactions.

    Jeopardy was just a publicity stunt to advertise his capabilities – Watson is WAY beyond just playing Jeopardy.

    Ever had to find something on the computer but can’t remember exactly where it was or what it was named, or even exactly what was in it? You could say, “I had a file with notes about a meeting a couple months ago, something about new customers or something.” Watson could find the file which you want.

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk, that’s still a narrow capability compared to the human brain. “Idiot savant” stands: very impressive but limited.

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk, that’s still a narrow capability compared to the human brain. “Idiot savant” stands: very impressive but limited.

  • http://www.biteinteractive.com/ Brant

    I’m with Tom – Echoing what I was saying on the Singularity thread, people seem to get overly excited when computers do what computers do really well and then extrapolate that they’ll be able to do things that computers can’t do well soon. Indexing large datasets and retrieving them is something computers do well – “learning” is a lot more than that. I’ll be impressed if Watson can beat the same opponents in Wheel of Fortune, Battleship, Price is Right, Parcheesi, Backgammon and Hearts – all without any additional programming. Because I’m pretty sure Ken Jennings could master any of those quickly.

    That’s not to discount what WebMonk is saying. Watson sounds pretty impressive from a natural language processing point of view and that;s not an easy task. Think of how imprecise our language is next time you’re in an argument about what someone thinks you said because of some minor implication you hadn’t thought about. :)

  • http://www.biteinteractive.com/ Brant

    I’m with Tom – Echoing what I was saying on the Singularity thread, people seem to get overly excited when computers do what computers do really well and then extrapolate that they’ll be able to do things that computers can’t do well soon. Indexing large datasets and retrieving them is something computers do well – “learning” is a lot more than that. I’ll be impressed if Watson can beat the same opponents in Wheel of Fortune, Battleship, Price is Right, Parcheesi, Backgammon and Hearts – all without any additional programming. Because I’m pretty sure Ken Jennings could master any of those quickly.

    That’s not to discount what WebMonk is saying. Watson sounds pretty impressive from a natural language processing point of view and that;s not an easy task. Think of how imprecise our language is next time you’re in an argument about what someone thinks you said because of some minor implication you hadn’t thought about. :)

  • WebMonk

    Well then Tom, I guess it’s a good thing they weren’t trying to make Watson a human brain, isn’t it!

    This is what so annoys me about statements like Veith’s about computers, even when done in jest.

    No one has said Watson was an attempt at making a human. No one said he was self-conscious. No one has said Watson is supposed to be a substitute for humankind.

    Wait, I need to correct those statements don’t I?

    People are saying those things, aren’t they! But the people saying those thing are all completely ignorant of what Watson is and is supposed to be or are completely talking out their asses!

    Watson isn’t supposed to be a human. So why do people insist on saying Watson is “idiocy” (to quote a particular idiot on the subject) because Watson’s not something that it isn’t supposed to be in the first place?

    I hope Veith was joking when he said Watson is smarter than a person, because it’s not smarter than a person and wasn’t ever an attempt to be smarter than a person. Watson is an attempt to be a faster and more complete search and analysis tool than a human can be, and will likely grow into an excellent decision-making tool as well.

    I realize people are making those sorts of comparisons between Watson and humans out of ignorance or a desire to make hyped-up news stories, but it’s a fundamentally flawed comparison. And yet, even after that has been pointed out a dozen times on this blog, people still don’t learn and continue to make the same fundamentally flawed criticism.

    One might as well criticize an automobile for not being able to do the dishes! Watson isn’t designed to be a human.

  • WebMonk

    Well then Tom, I guess it’s a good thing they weren’t trying to make Watson a human brain, isn’t it!

    This is what so annoys me about statements like Veith’s about computers, even when done in jest.

    No one has said Watson was an attempt at making a human. No one said he was self-conscious. No one has said Watson is supposed to be a substitute for humankind.

    Wait, I need to correct those statements don’t I?

    People are saying those things, aren’t they! But the people saying those thing are all completely ignorant of what Watson is and is supposed to be or are completely talking out their asses!

    Watson isn’t supposed to be a human. So why do people insist on saying Watson is “idiocy” (to quote a particular idiot on the subject) because Watson’s not something that it isn’t supposed to be in the first place?

    I hope Veith was joking when he said Watson is smarter than a person, because it’s not smarter than a person and wasn’t ever an attempt to be smarter than a person. Watson is an attempt to be a faster and more complete search and analysis tool than a human can be, and will likely grow into an excellent decision-making tool as well.

    I realize people are making those sorts of comparisons between Watson and humans out of ignorance or a desire to make hyped-up news stories, but it’s a fundamentally flawed comparison. And yet, even after that has been pointed out a dozen times on this blog, people still don’t learn and continue to make the same fundamentally flawed criticism.

    One might as well criticize an automobile for not being able to do the dishes! Watson isn’t designed to be a human.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think Jeopardy only proves Watson had better button latency than the humans. I have not seen specifics on Watson, but I wonder if they built in a reaction delay for buzzing in.

    I am impressed with the advances in auditory user interface technology, and the speed at which it can access its databases. Not so impressed with its ability to win at Jeopardy.

    If their goal is a Star Trek like interface, I hope they come up with a less annoying voice than the Enterprise’s computer.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I think Jeopardy only proves Watson had better button latency than the humans. I have not seen specifics on Watson, but I wonder if they built in a reaction delay for buzzing in.

    I am impressed with the advances in auditory user interface technology, and the speed at which it can access its databases. Not so impressed with its ability to win at Jeopardy.

    If their goal is a Star Trek like interface, I hope they come up with a less annoying voice than the Enterprise’s computer.

  • WebMonk

    Bror, your comparison is fundamentally flawed – Jennings can master all those things because he has spent many years learning to do all those things – as a child and adult, he continually grew, learned, and was taught how to do all those things you mentioned.

    But then, you make a comparison with Watson and say you’ll only be impressed with Watson if it can do all those things without having the equivalent sort of opportunity. To make the situations vaguely equivalent, you would have to give Watson the opportunity to gain those other skills as well – ie have the programs for those activities loaded in.

    Watson isn’t a human, isn’t designed to be a human, and isn’t designed to mimic human behaviors. It is a very fast tool. So why all the criticism that Watson isn’t a human?!?

    Like I said, you might as well criticize a car for not being able to do the dishes.

  • WebMonk

    Bror, your comparison is fundamentally flawed – Jennings can master all those things because he has spent many years learning to do all those things – as a child and adult, he continually grew, learned, and was taught how to do all those things you mentioned.

    But then, you make a comparison with Watson and say you’ll only be impressed with Watson if it can do all those things without having the equivalent sort of opportunity. To make the situations vaguely equivalent, you would have to give Watson the opportunity to gain those other skills as well – ie have the programs for those activities loaded in.

    Watson isn’t a human, isn’t designed to be a human, and isn’t designed to mimic human behaviors. It is a very fast tool. So why all the criticism that Watson isn’t a human?!?

    Like I said, you might as well criticize a car for not being able to do the dishes.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, I meant Brant. I was over on another post and had just read a comment by Bror before I wrote #9 above.

    @8 – Yes they did build in an actual buzzer that Watson had to press, and yes, both Jennings and Rutter did beat Watson to the buzzer numerous times. Not enough times to win, but still quite a few times.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, I meant Brant. I was over on another post and had just read a comment by Bror before I wrote #9 above.

    @8 – Yes they did build in an actual buzzer that Watson had to press, and yes, both Jennings and Rutter did beat Watson to the buzzer numerous times. Not enough times to win, but still quite a few times.

  • http://www.biteinteractive.com/ Brant

    WebMonk – I think we are saying the same thing: That it is silly to act as though Watson is the soon to be here replacement for humans. My point is that it would take humans to program those things into Watson after learning the rules, strategies, etc of each game and that it is impossible to call that “learning” in any sense that is analogous to humans. But our basic premise is the same: Watson is an impressive computer, but that’s not (and was never intended to be) an impressive human/brain/etc.

  • http://www.biteinteractive.com/ Brant

    WebMonk – I think we are saying the same thing: That it is silly to act as though Watson is the soon to be here replacement for humans. My point is that it would take humans to program those things into Watson after learning the rules, strategies, etc of each game and that it is impossible to call that “learning” in any sense that is analogous to humans. But our basic premise is the same: Watson is an impressive computer, but that’s not (and was never intended to be) an impressive human/brain/etc.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, I’d concede that at the correlation of information level, Watson is an impressive accomplishment; however on the scale of facts/information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, Watson is at the lowest level.

    Joe Wezenbaum’s claim that the danger of the computer is fundamentally connected with the yearning of many people to find some mechanical way of making hard choices is still salient. At best the computer can only help with hard choices

    The basic fallacy of modernism is a faith that pure rationalism can solve all problems; this, coupled with romantic enthusiasm for human progress, including its application to computers, is a toxic combination.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, I’d concede that at the correlation of information level, Watson is an impressive accomplishment; however on the scale of facts/information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, Watson is at the lowest level.

    Joe Wezenbaum’s claim that the danger of the computer is fundamentally connected with the yearning of many people to find some mechanical way of making hard choices is still salient. At best the computer can only help with hard choices

    The basic fallacy of modernism is a faith that pure rationalism can solve all problems; this, coupled with romantic enthusiasm for human progress, including its application to computers, is a toxic combination.

  • WebMonk

    Ah so! Yes, Brant, exactly. Watson isn’t intended to be a learning machine.

    I think it could get some simple learning abilities pretty easily though – just factor in the accuracy of the results it finds into future considerations for searches. Hook it up with Google’s speech recognition system (or any number of speech-to-text and phoneme recognition systems) and the proper sets of database information, and I would be willing to bet it could do essentially what the Star Trek Enterprise computer did.

  • WebMonk

    Ah so! Yes, Brant, exactly. Watson isn’t intended to be a learning machine.

    I think it could get some simple learning abilities pretty easily though – just factor in the accuracy of the results it finds into future considerations for searches. Hook it up with Google’s speech recognition system (or any number of speech-to-text and phoneme recognition systems) and the proper sets of database information, and I would be willing to bet it could do essentially what the Star Trek Enterprise computer did.

  • WebMonk

    Leavitt, I know you can read, so I have to only assume that it’s your comprehension that is so abysmal. I’ll make this as short and simple as possible for you.

    Watson is not intended to operate on your scales of knowledge, understand, wisdom, etc.

    Got that?

    You are criticizing it for not doing something that it was never intended to do in the first place.

    You are criticizing a car for not being able to do the dishes. No one is claiming the car (Watson) can do dishes (have wisdom or understanding).

  • WebMonk

    Leavitt, I know you can read, so I have to only assume that it’s your comprehension that is so abysmal. I’ll make this as short and simple as possible for you.

    Watson is not intended to operate on your scales of knowledge, understand, wisdom, etc.

    Got that?

    You are criticizing it for not doing something that it was never intended to do in the first place.

    You are criticizing a car for not being able to do the dishes. No one is claiming the car (Watson) can do dishes (have wisdom or understanding).

  • Helen F

    Dan, #3 posted:
    “So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president?”
    We would need to see his birth certificate.

    Watson would not qualify because it probably is not yet 35 yrs old!

  • Helen F

    Dan, #3 posted:
    “So if Watson is smarter than people, should we elect him president?”
    We would need to see his birth certificate.

    Watson would not qualify because it probably is not yet 35 yrs old!

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, human beings have every right to be concerned about a bunch of sinful technocrats enamored of artificial “intelligence.”

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, human beings have every right to be concerned about a bunch of sinful technocrats enamored of artificial “intelligence.”

  • WebMonk

    Am I being unclear about something? I thought I had put it simply and concisely enough for even a technologically ignorant 174 year-old to understand.

    Does anyone else think they can get it through to Leavitt that no one is claiming that Watson is some sort of “intelligence” designed to make human decisions?!?!

  • WebMonk

    Am I being unclear about something? I thought I had put it simply and concisely enough for even a technologically ignorant 174 year-old to understand.

    Does anyone else think they can get it through to Leavitt that no one is claiming that Watson is some sort of “intelligence” designed to make human decisions?!?!

  • DonS

    If Watson can balance a budget, I will be glad to elect him as president. And I know he would have Toronto’s votes :-)

    Webmonk, I am pretty sure Dr. Veith is jesting.

  • DonS

    If Watson can balance a budget, I will be glad to elect him as president. And I know he would have Toronto’s votes :-)

    Webmonk, I am pretty sure Dr. Veith is jesting.

  • WebMonk

    I’m fairly sure too. I’m just not sure others realize that.

  • WebMonk

    I’m fairly sure too. I’m just not sure others realize that.

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS, it is a common saying around here (the West), that we could loose/seel/give Toronto to you guys with very little loss to us… maybe Watson is a Western Canadian at heart? :)

  • http://theobservationtree.blogspot.com Louis

    DonS, it is a common saying around here (the West), that we could loose/seel/give Toronto to you guys with very little loss to us… maybe Watson is a Western Canadian at heart? :)

  • Porcell

    WebMonk on the Artificial Intelligence Forum the following exchange took place:

    Author:
    Is Watson a form of artificial intelligence? Being able to play jeopardy is challenging!

    Yes. In the training phase Watson uses inductive reasoning to discover and generalize patterns and correlations between Answers and Questions in the training set in conjuction with supporting information (wikipedia, dictionaries, etc.). In the game phase Watson uses the patterns and information sources with Abductive reasoning to produce candidate responses, justifications and likelihood values. the candidates are further reduced with Deductive reasoning (e.g., eliminating candidates by using contradictory evidence).

    These methods are discussed in more detail in the human mind map web site.

    Should you not think the technocrats aren’t getting off on Watson, you are living in a dream world. I’m well aware of the attempt of the Watson designers to downplay their achievement, though what the technocrats are doing with it is another matter. From the time of Minsky at M.I.T.s Artificial Intelligence Lab, while being rhetorically disingenuous, they have dreampt of achieving AI, something that Joe Wezenbaum bravely called them on.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk on the Artificial Intelligence Forum the following exchange took place:

    Author:
    Is Watson a form of artificial intelligence? Being able to play jeopardy is challenging!

    Yes. In the training phase Watson uses inductive reasoning to discover and generalize patterns and correlations between Answers and Questions in the training set in conjuction with supporting information (wikipedia, dictionaries, etc.). In the game phase Watson uses the patterns and information sources with Abductive reasoning to produce candidate responses, justifications and likelihood values. the candidates are further reduced with Deductive reasoning (e.g., eliminating candidates by using contradictory evidence).

    These methods are discussed in more detail in the human mind map web site.

    Should you not think the technocrats aren’t getting off on Watson, you are living in a dream world. I’m well aware of the attempt of the Watson designers to downplay their achievement, though what the technocrats are doing with it is another matter. From the time of Minsky at M.I.T.s Artificial Intelligence Lab, while being rhetorically disingenuous, they have dreampt of achieving AI, something that Joe Wezenbaum bravely called them on.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Criminy, Porcell (@21), at least when you were citing the one book by Weizenbaum that you read in order to qualify you to pontificate on the entire field of artificial intelligence (and you have cited him in every conversation where it’s come up; if all you have is a hammer, etc.), you were citing a reasonably authoritative source. Now you’re trolling through Web forums and citing conversations between (and I am not making this up) “toborman” and “da*beast” to make your case?

    What’s more, you completely failed to even read or comprehend the full context of the forum conversation you quoted from (all five short posts):

    Another question! Is Watson the strong form of public A.I. at the moment?

    No. Watson is a special purpose AI, and is not designed to have strong AI. However, the machine learning portion of the code is well done and should lead to more general application. To be considered stronger it would at least need the ability to do metacognition.

    Anyhow, hey, Porcell, do you remember all of yesterday when you made the ever-so-rich statement to me, “Who do think you are that you can gauge what’s going on in an other person’s mind”? (Which is more than a tad ironic, because you’re always telling us what some other person “well understands” or “well knows”.)

    And now you’re using your ability to partially understand Web forum discussions to tell us whether “technocrats are getting off on Watson” and trying to argue what Watson is and isn’t even though you think Watson is “idiocy” for getting a question correct?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Criminy, Porcell (@21), at least when you were citing the one book by Weizenbaum that you read in order to qualify you to pontificate on the entire field of artificial intelligence (and you have cited him in every conversation where it’s come up; if all you have is a hammer, etc.), you were citing a reasonably authoritative source. Now you’re trolling through Web forums and citing conversations between (and I am not making this up) “toborman” and “da*beast” to make your case?

    What’s more, you completely failed to even read or comprehend the full context of the forum conversation you quoted from (all five short posts):

    Another question! Is Watson the strong form of public A.I. at the moment?

    No. Watson is a special purpose AI, and is not designed to have strong AI. However, the machine learning portion of the code is well done and should lead to more general application. To be considered stronger it would at least need the ability to do metacognition.

    Anyhow, hey, Porcell, do you remember all of yesterday when you made the ever-so-rich statement to me, “Who do think you are that you can gauge what’s going on in an other person’s mind”? (Which is more than a tad ironic, because you’re always telling us what some other person “well understands” or “well knows”.)

    And now you’re using your ability to partially understand Web forum discussions to tell us whether “technocrats are getting off on Watson” and trying to argue what Watson is and isn’t even though you think Watson is “idiocy” for getting a question correct?

  • WebMonk

    Peter @21, you obviously think you understand what those people are saying, but just as obvious to everyone else, you haven’t the foggiest clue. My suggestion, try to learn what a few of those terms mean before you start commenting on them.

    You just don’t seem to realize what AI is, or what they mean by AI. You seem to be stuck with concepts of HAL-9000 or something.

    Normally I don’t mind explaining concepts or some technical point, but I give up getting anything technical across to you. The Dwarves are for the Dwarves and no one is going to fool you about computers!

  • WebMonk

    Peter @21, you obviously think you understand what those people are saying, but just as obvious to everyone else, you haven’t the foggiest clue. My suggestion, try to learn what a few of those terms mean before you start commenting on them.

    You just don’t seem to realize what AI is, or what they mean by AI. You seem to be stuck with concepts of HAL-9000 or something.

    Normally I don’t mind explaining concepts or some technical point, but I give up getting anything technical across to you. The Dwarves are for the Dwarves and no one is going to fool you about computers!

  • WebMonk

    Whoops, tODD beat me to it.

  • WebMonk

    Whoops, tODD beat me to it.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I would love to have Watson over for dinner. Does “he” do dinner conversation? Even if its not metacognition, I think I might still enjoy “his” friendship. Does “he” have a facebook page, I wonder?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I would love to have Watson over for dinner. Does “he” do dinner conversation? Even if its not metacognition, I think I might still enjoy “his” friendship. Does “he” have a facebook page, I wonder?

  • Porcell

    WebMonk: Normally I don’t mind explaining concepts or some technical point, but I give up getting anything technical across to you.

    Bror once remarked that in effect you have appointed yourself the technical guru on this blog. He didn’t buy this; neither do I. I’m delighted to know that you’ve given up your presumptuous attempt to get any thing technical across to me.

    During my period as Administrative Officer for International Programs for the School of Engineering at M.I.T., I had no difficulty communicating with real technical experts, including Joe Weizenbaun, a professor of computer science, whose skepticism of the power of the computer is as valid today, as was back in the seventies.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk: Normally I don’t mind explaining concepts or some technical point, but I give up getting anything technical across to you.

    Bror once remarked that in effect you have appointed yourself the technical guru on this blog. He didn’t buy this; neither do I. I’m delighted to know that you’ve given up your presumptuous attempt to get any thing technical across to me.

    During my period as Administrative Officer for International Programs for the School of Engineering at M.I.T., I had no difficulty communicating with real technical experts, including Joe Weizenbaun, a professor of computer science, whose skepticism of the power of the computer is as valid today, as was back in the seventies.

  • WebMonk

    Peter, should you wish to continue this conversation, you need to respond to #14, 17, 22, and 23 in which is shown that your concept of the computer hardly approximates reality. Otherwise, you hardly know what you’re talking about.

  • WebMonk

    Peter, should you wish to continue this conversation, you need to respond to #14, 17, 22, and 23 in which is shown that your concept of the computer hardly approximates reality. Otherwise, you hardly know what you’re talking about.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m afraid he has you there, WebMonk! Porcell has communicated with experts — experts whose names he is repeatedly incapable of spelling correctly today! He was an Administrative Officer for International Programs! Can you even begin to imagine what technological expertise such a position requires, much less engenders? Do you even own a computer, WebMonk? Porcell has read a book by a man he once communicated with — in a field that has not in any significant way changed in over four decades!

    Porcell is right to be seriously skeptical of the “power of the computer”, given that he well understands that the reason his bank account was hacked was because he was using his real name in blog comments.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I’m afraid he has you there, WebMonk! Porcell has communicated with experts — experts whose names he is repeatedly incapable of spelling correctly today! He was an Administrative Officer for International Programs! Can you even begin to imagine what technological expertise such a position requires, much less engenders? Do you even own a computer, WebMonk? Porcell has read a book by a man he once communicated with — in a field that has not in any significant way changed in over four decades!

    Porcell is right to be seriously skeptical of the “power of the computer”, given that he well understands that the reason his bank account was hacked was because he was using his real name in blog comments.

  • WebMonk

    Sigh. I admit it tODD. My insecurities about my 15 years of programming and a masters degree has been exposed! I was intimidated by the sheer depth of technical expertise and knowledge of computers displayed by an Administrative Officer of International Programs.

    I abjectly grovel and beg everyone’s forgiveness for daring to disagree with such a respected giant in the field of computer systems as we have present in the person of Peter Leavitt.

    I shall travel to Massachusetts and wail outside his door in sackcloth and ashes until he forgives me for such shameful temerity as I have so basely displayed here.

  • WebMonk

    Sigh. I admit it tODD. My insecurities about my 15 years of programming and a masters degree has been exposed! I was intimidated by the sheer depth of technical expertise and knowledge of computers displayed by an Administrative Officer of International Programs.

    I abjectly grovel and beg everyone’s forgiveness for daring to disagree with such a respected giant in the field of computer systems as we have present in the person of Peter Leavitt.

    I shall travel to Massachusetts and wail outside his door in sackcloth and ashes until he forgives me for such shameful temerity as I have so basely displayed here.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, I perfectly understand your point that Watson deals with nothing higher on the scale of intellectual quality than the information level, though you apparently don’t understand my concern that the technocrats and the hype involved with artificial intelligence,including that of Watson, need to be regarded with acute skepticism.

    Todd, I’m through communicating with you, as I regard you as an intellectual lightweight with a distinctly gauche style.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, I perfectly understand your point that Watson deals with nothing higher on the scale of intellectual quality than the information level, though you apparently don’t understand my concern that the technocrats and the hype involved with artificial intelligence,including that of Watson, need to be regarded with acute skepticism.

    Todd, I’m through communicating with you, as I regard you as an intellectual lightweight with a distinctly gauche style.

  • WebMonk

    Oh no, tODD! Peter Leavitt believes you are an intellectual lightweight and refuses to communicate with you! The great Administrator himself has denied you the gift of his interactions!

    Come! Join me in wailing before his door and perhaps he will show us mercy and once again enlighten us with the great wisdom he has gained from reading a book by a person with whom he communicated at some point decades ago!

  • WebMonk

    Oh no, tODD! Peter Leavitt believes you are an intellectual lightweight and refuses to communicate with you! The great Administrator himself has denied you the gift of his interactions!

    Come! Join me in wailing before his door and perhaps he will show us mercy and once again enlighten us with the great wisdom he has gained from reading a book by a person with whom he communicated at some point decades ago!

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, actually, just now, I’m at my winter place in the Bahamas and will later be in South Africa for a couple of months. You shall have to save that penitentiary journey to Massachusetts for a while.

    As to Weizenbaum’s “decades old ” book, like most prophetic books, it will outlast his critics. Weizenbaum, having, born in Berlin, was acutely aware of the pretensions of modern science and technology, which, along with Nietzschean nihilism, brought about the slaughter of his people. Though he was among the pioneers of computer science, he came to understand that this “science” threatened the best interests of human beings. He knew that his famous Eliza program was dubiously clever programming. Though he was regarded as a gadfly and heretic in the artificial “intelligence” community, over time he will likely be viewed as a prophet.

    I personally remember Weizenbaum remarking that computers are essentially a binary numerical tool of very limited intelligence, though they provide the illusion that human compassion and judgment may be displaced by mechanical means. This, of course, is the prime piety of modernity.

    My apologies for not deferring to your superior status as the technical guru of this blog-site.

  • Porcell

    WebMonk, actually, just now, I’m at my winter place in the Bahamas and will later be in South Africa for a couple of months. You shall have to save that penitentiary journey to Massachusetts for a while.

    As to Weizenbaum’s “decades old ” book, like most prophetic books, it will outlast his critics. Weizenbaum, having, born in Berlin, was acutely aware of the pretensions of modern science and technology, which, along with Nietzschean nihilism, brought about the slaughter of his people. Though he was among the pioneers of computer science, he came to understand that this “science” threatened the best interests of human beings. He knew that his famous Eliza program was dubiously clever programming. Though he was regarded as a gadfly and heretic in the artificial “intelligence” community, over time he will likely be viewed as a prophet.

    I personally remember Weizenbaum remarking that computers are essentially a binary numerical tool of very limited intelligence, though they provide the illusion that human compassion and judgment may be displaced by mechanical means. This, of course, is the prime piety of modernity.

    My apologies for not deferring to your superior status as the technical guru of this blog-site.

  • Porcell

    Pardon me. At 32, in the second sentence of para.2 it ought to have been Weizenbaum, having been born in Berlin…

  • Porcell

    Pardon me. At 32, in the second sentence of para.2 it ought to have been Weizenbaum, having been born in Berlin…

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    See? I told you! Peter “Who do think you are that you can gauge what’s going on in an other person’s mind” Leavitt once again finds himself telling us what’s going on in another person’s mind (@32), saying that Weizenbaum “was acutely aware” of this and that, and he “came to understand” thus and so.

    “This ‘science’ threatened the best interests of human beings” Mm-hmm. That seems like a vast overstatement, don’t you think, Peter? That the whole of computer science threatens us? Might as well indict the whole of science and technology, while you’re at it, if you can’t distinguish between the judicious use of technology and knowledge and the inappropriate use of the same. In fact, it would seem that Weizenbaum’s book makes such a distinction, though your summary of it does not. Hmm.

    “His famous Eliza program was dubiously clever programming.” Indeed. But the world, and computer science especially, has moved on since then, even if your understanding of the latter has not. Really, Peter, try reading at least one other book on the topic. Perhaps a recent one. By someone you haven’t personally met.

    As to your assertion that computers “provide the illusion that human compassion and judgment may be displaced by mechanical means”, I believe that illusion is most powerful for those who feel threatened by technology and so construct straw-man arguments about it. If anyone here besides you is discussing computers having wisdom or compassion, please point them out. If they are not, then on what basis would you claim such to be the “the prime piety of modernity”?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    See? I told you! Peter “Who do think you are that you can gauge what’s going on in an other person’s mind” Leavitt once again finds himself telling us what’s going on in another person’s mind (@32), saying that Weizenbaum “was acutely aware” of this and that, and he “came to understand” thus and so.

    “This ‘science’ threatened the best interests of human beings” Mm-hmm. That seems like a vast overstatement, don’t you think, Peter? That the whole of computer science threatens us? Might as well indict the whole of science and technology, while you’re at it, if you can’t distinguish between the judicious use of technology and knowledge and the inappropriate use of the same. In fact, it would seem that Weizenbaum’s book makes such a distinction, though your summary of it does not. Hmm.

    “His famous Eliza program was dubiously clever programming.” Indeed. But the world, and computer science especially, has moved on since then, even if your understanding of the latter has not. Really, Peter, try reading at least one other book on the topic. Perhaps a recent one. By someone you haven’t personally met.

    As to your assertion that computers “provide the illusion that human compassion and judgment may be displaced by mechanical means”, I believe that illusion is most powerful for those who feel threatened by technology and so construct straw-man arguments about it. If anyone here besides you is discussing computers having wisdom or compassion, please point them out. If they are not, then on what basis would you claim such to be the “the prime piety of modernity”?

  • Dust

    I for one really enjoy Porcell’s comments and agree with most of them, most of the time.

    I remember as an undergraduate and graduate student in Math and Computer Science (it was usually in the Math department in those days) back in the 70′s and 80′s reading articles in Scientific American and Chronicle of Higher Ed from the Professors at MIT debunking a lot of the Utopian pipe dreams floating around in those days, like computers replacing professors and in the 80′s of AI replacing doctors and many other idealistic plans.

    Don’t know why but never bought into that camp and that was all thru the 80′s and 90′s living and working in Silicon Valley and being surrounded by folks who liked to push those kinds of ideas. It would have been easier to go along with them rather than have our friendly disagreements, but time has pretty well proved that most of their dreams have pretty much gone up in smoke.

    For what it’s worth, am looking forward to more of Porcell and his unique and wise comments and really enjoy the full range of other folks who contribute to this blog as well.

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    I for one really enjoy Porcell’s comments and agree with most of them, most of the time.

    I remember as an undergraduate and graduate student in Math and Computer Science (it was usually in the Math department in those days) back in the 70′s and 80′s reading articles in Scientific American and Chronicle of Higher Ed from the Professors at MIT debunking a lot of the Utopian pipe dreams floating around in those days, like computers replacing professors and in the 80′s of AI replacing doctors and many other idealistic plans.

    Don’t know why but never bought into that camp and that was all thru the 80′s and 90′s living and working in Silicon Valley and being surrounded by folks who liked to push those kinds of ideas. It would have been easier to go along with them rather than have our friendly disagreements, but time has pretty well proved that most of their dreams have pretty much gone up in smoke.

    For what it’s worth, am looking forward to more of Porcell and his unique and wise comments and really enjoy the full range of other folks who contribute to this blog as well.

    Cheers!

  • WebMonk

    Oh come on guys. Poking fun at Porcell’s incredible ignorance and idiocy is funny the first several times, but eventually there comes that one hundred twenty-first time when even comedic gold such as Porcell’s finally begins to lose its luster. Let the poor guy alone.

    And no, my calling Porcell’s statements idiocy isn’t deriding him at all. He said Watson was idiocy, but also stated he wasn’t denigrating Watson. See, I can learn much from Porcell’s wisdom even though I’m an intellectual lightweight and not worthy to be blessed by his great wisdom.

  • WebMonk

    Oh come on guys. Poking fun at Porcell’s incredible ignorance and idiocy is funny the first several times, but eventually there comes that one hundred twenty-first time when even comedic gold such as Porcell’s finally begins to lose its luster. Let the poor guy alone.

    And no, my calling Porcell’s statements idiocy isn’t deriding him at all. He said Watson was idiocy, but also stated he wasn’t denigrating Watson. See, I can learn much from Porcell’s wisdom even though I’m an intellectual lightweight and not worthy to be blessed by his great wisdom.

  • WebMonk

    To get back to the original topic, here are a couple odds and ends I’ve discovered since Friday.

    Watson’s mechanical hand takes between six and 10 milliseconds to push down the Jeopardy buzzer. Humans can push down the buzzer in as little as zero to one milliseconds – Watson’s advantage was not in his buzzing speed. I also ran across a place that said people generally take between 2 to 6 milliseconds to push the buzzer from the moment they found out the answer. I have not clue where or how they got that number, and I didn’t save the page, so it’s a very suspect number, so take it for what it’s worth.

    Watson’s quirky Daily Double and Final Jeopardy wagers–$347, $947, $17,973–are a goof from IBM. “The guy programming it thought it would be boring [to end wagers with a 0],” Prager explains. So the programmer ever-so-slightly tweaked Watson’s wagers “to give Alex Trebek something to talk about.”

  • WebMonk

    To get back to the original topic, here are a couple odds and ends I’ve discovered since Friday.

    Watson’s mechanical hand takes between six and 10 milliseconds to push down the Jeopardy buzzer. Humans can push down the buzzer in as little as zero to one milliseconds – Watson’s advantage was not in his buzzing speed. I also ran across a place that said people generally take between 2 to 6 milliseconds to push the buzzer from the moment they found out the answer. I have not clue where or how they got that number, and I didn’t save the page, so it’s a very suspect number, so take it for what it’s worth.

    Watson’s quirky Daily Double and Final Jeopardy wagers–$347, $947, $17,973–are a goof from IBM. “The guy programming it thought it would be boring [to end wagers with a 0],” Prager explains. So the programmer ever-so-slightly tweaked Watson’s wagers “to give Alex Trebek something to talk about.”

  • collie

    I got home late on Thursday night, so I wasn’t able to watch most of the show; only Final Jeopardy. I was surprised to see that Ken Jennings had earned about $20,000; a big difference from the night before, where he had only earned a few thousand. So either the categories were more in his knowledge base, or he learned how to beat Watson to the buzzer. Maybe a combination. (Or maybe he hit it big on a daily double)

    It’s pretty impressive that these two men were able to compete on any level with the computer. I think it’s great that they were willing to do so in public.

    Another quirky bit from Watson was putting ???????? after his incorrect Final Jeopardy answer (question). I liked it; it created the sense that the computer has a conscience. A nice touch from a programmer, since no Jeopardy-worthy contestant would dare offer such a goofy answer. (wrong country, dude!)

    Thanks for the update, Dr. Veith and Webmonk.

  • collie

    I got home late on Thursday night, so I wasn’t able to watch most of the show; only Final Jeopardy. I was surprised to see that Ken Jennings had earned about $20,000; a big difference from the night before, where he had only earned a few thousand. So either the categories were more in his knowledge base, or he learned how to beat Watson to the buzzer. Maybe a combination. (Or maybe he hit it big on a daily double)

    It’s pretty impressive that these two men were able to compete on any level with the computer. I think it’s great that they were willing to do so in public.

    Another quirky bit from Watson was putting ???????? after his incorrect Final Jeopardy answer (question). I liked it; it created the sense that the computer has a conscience. A nice touch from a programmer, since no Jeopardy-worthy contestant would dare offer such a goofy answer. (wrong country, dude!)

    Thanks for the update, Dr. Veith and Webmonk.


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