Monday, April 27, 2009

Game Show Veteran to Machine: I'll Kick Your Metal Ass!

An urgent development came across in this morning's NY Times, and it was something so global and personally incendiary that I could not let even a day go by without commenting.

No, this is not about swine flu...which based on what I've read seems close enough to the normal flu that I'm not personally concerned.

This story, is about recent developments in artificial intelligence. Many of you may remember IBM scientists proudly building a computer capable of besting the world's most prominent chess masters.

Well, those bastards at IBM are still at work.

"I.B.M. plans to announce Monday that it is in the final stages of completing a computer program to compete against human “Jeopardy!” contestants. If the program beats the humans, the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward."

The gauntlet has been thrown down...they're building a Jeopardy-bot that they think is capable of beating Jeopardy players.

Now, I find this disturbing on two levels.

One level is my inherent feelings towards robots. I've made this point several times, and at the risk of repeating myself, my warning remains the same.

If we keep building better robots, they will invariably move to kill all humanity. Hollywood figured this out years ago, and the geniuses down at IBM, MIT, the Pentagon and other think factories can't shake off visions of helpful and dutiful robot slaves cleaning our houses, fighting our wars, and sexing up our various lonelyhearts.

People! This is not realistic! The robots WILL turn on us! I'm suspicious enough of these Predator drones, but support them only because they're controlled by humans in a video game-like scenario (which in an odd coincidence, is exactly like the scene from Toys). Anyway, a robot that can answer trivia questions is only a quick jump away from slicing all of our faces off to protect his or her robo-children. In this way, the Jeopardy-bot scares me.

But there's another level on which I take offense to this supposed Jeopardy-bot, and that's as a former contestant on the show.

If you IBM programmers design a robot that can answer all the questions more capably than a human, then where does that leave someone like me?!? Where does my value add go?!?

Now I know how a Ford line worker must have felt the first time he saw a robot arm bolt the front quarter panel onto a Taurus!

But I will not go quietly into trivia oblivion. To those designers at IBM, I say, bring on your creation, your Frankentrivia abomination. I personally would welcome the opportunity to challenge your Jeopardy-bot, and would relish the chance to soundly defeat your godless monster at categories ranging from English Literature to the most potent of potables!

I will do whatever I have to to ensure the robot's defeat and score a victory for all those who would rather have a filthy carpet than a robotic vacuum cleaner, who would rather have a book of maps than an automatic GPS navigator, or who would prefer a Playboy magazine to the most advanced freaky robot sex toy the Japanese have ever unveiled!

You, Jeopardy-bot, will have to pry my Jeopardy buzzer from my cold dead hands!

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