Monday, September 12, 2011

The Human Element

Last week, for those of you who care, there’s been a big brouhaha about conflicts of interest at TechCrunch, a group of self-proclaimed awesome journalists with ethical standards that can weather all sorts of conflicts of interest. Let’s not forget one-sided coverage on the CrunchPad, publication of confidential Twitter docs, washing dirty linen in public (expletives and all...), etc. You decide. But, read on ...

Also last week, I had a massive hour+-long “debate” with my teenage son about whether humans are just animals.

We covered various dimensions, such as DNA makeup, intelligence, thought, art, conceptualization, and at what point an “animal” starts on a journey to enlightenment that differentiates it in a magical new dimension.

Needless to say, neither of us gave in, and, while the rest of the family thought we were going to kill each other, no one won the “debate”. (Of course, I was right!)

Well, I should go back and start a new debate - are computers just as good as humans (and thus, just another kind of organism, or maybe even superior “beings”! :-))

Ever since people replaced people with machines, and people improved their creations, and made machines more and more in their own likeness, the barriers between the carbon-based life form, and a silicon-based life form are being eroded!

Deep Blue - Kasparov was one nail in the coffin. Wikipedia being the de facto compendium of information, Google instantly answering all the questions you may have, Wolfram Alpha solving math problems, Facebook obsoleting the need to meet anyone, and Watson effectively reaching the 3-second trigger barrier to beat the best Jeopardy organisms in the Universe -- have all but sealed the coffin.

Today, Dr. Watson just replaced some M.D. person in order to improve the consistency of diagnosis of the ailing human condition!

Also today comes the news that computers can write better than (or as well as) journalists, setting them up well on their way to the next Pulitzer (after having already waltzed their way to moviemaking history). Computers seem to have discovered the human element!

This is very timely :-) Let’s just replace TechCrunch’s “journalists” with Narrative Science bots, and see if it makes a difference!!

It’ll create a conflict of great interest!


Afroz said...

Yale Law School mulling using Watson as a judge ;)

Balaji Shyamkumar said...

So did your son also blog about the debate? It will be interesting to read his perspective.

Unknown said...

Nope - he did not blog about the debate - but he has an interesting topic for Lincoln-Douglas debate this month - questions about animal rights :-)