Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Open Letter to Watson and I.B.M.

Listen Watson. I'm quite aware of your less-than-subtle plans for world domination and I'm here to tell you to it will not stand. Trivia acumen does not a super-computer make. And you have the GALL to flaunt your talents on Jeopardy, the most esteemed quiz show on planet Earth. Don't get me wrong, computers are great when they are in my cellphone or doing my dishes, but once they start encroaching on hallowed pieces of Americana like Jeopardy, I draw a line in the sand.

The New York Times, once the last refuge of journalistic integrity, is joining the parade for this glorified box of silicon. In an article for their magazine, they spare no adjectives in extolling its merits. It can help doctors! It can improve customer service! If a doctor crunches algorithms to figure out how to stop my brain hemorrhage, the medical establishment has serious problems. If computers were popstars, Watson would be Justin Beiber and The New York Times would be my 14 year old cousin. There are slight references to Skynet and computers becoming cognitive, but these are fleeting respites from the fanatic tone of the rest of the piece. It has been a life's dream of mine to appear on Jeopardy, and when I see some hotshot laptop waltz into the studio on little more than hype, the word sacrilegious doesn't seem strong enough. Alex Trebek would be smart to stand with me, or the next season of Jeopardy will be hosted by Johnny 5 and he'll be selling denture creams.

Thankfully, the NYTimes sheds some light on the Achilles (w)heel of these androids. Puns. Ask it where Bach  died, and it'll bloop its little lights and spit out an answer. But ask it a roundabout question about mosquito bites, and it will try to answer "A Bug's Life" or stranger still,  "CSI: New York", whe correct answer was "itching". It cannot process any sort of wordplay or trickery. Thus, if you come in contact with one, do not try and reason with it. Quickly resort to vicious sarcasm and "your mama" jokes. With any luck it will blow out its circuits trying to compute the physics of an obese person reducing a rainbow to skittles. Or, if you're one for tact, you could also just play it here, and hope you can shame it into submission. I kicked it's metal butt back into the 19th century, 27-13. Jeopardy producers, I await your call.

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