Great story from CNN. The human champion describes Watson as a Terminator. It never gets tired, bored, has stage fright, gets cocky, or intimidated. It just keeps coming… answering general knowledge questions better than the best Jeopardy players on the planet. Scary right?
I thought back immediately to 1997, and a column Charles Krauthammer wrote on the occasion of chess grand master Garry Kasparov’s loss to IBM’s Deep Blue:
You might think it is a little early for fear. Well, Garry Kasparov doesn’t think so. “I’m not afraid to admit that I’m afraid”, said perhaps the most fearless player in the history of chess when asked about his tentative play. When it was all over, he confessed why: “I’m a human being, you know. When I see something thing that is well beyond my understanding, I’m scared.”
OK, I understand that one really shouldn’t draw conclusions from two data points. But we can certainly speculate!
In both cases, the computer seemed …unhuman… to its human opponent. That much we can attribute to the persons, and not the machine. But — Kasparov didn’t actually use the word “Terminator,” but you could slip it into his statement above and it would fit just fine. The machine just keeps… coming… at you.
The machine is remorseless, it seeks to win. And then it does win. That’s something we need to keep in mind, because right now, the cold science facts look eerily like the dystopian science fiction.
Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you lose on Jeopardy.