“Watson” vs. Humans

Watson supercomputer on Jeopardy.Recently the quiz show “Jeopardy” pitted “Watson,” an IBM supercomputer, against the show’s previous top winners including Ken Jennings, the all time record holder for Jeopardy wins. With fascination, I watched “Watson” demolish the humans in a lopsided win. The event got me thinking. I tend to believe, contrary to futurists such as Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom, that machine intelligence will never surpass human intelligence.

On the other hand, “Watson” “sounded” like a human and processed the information with a speed that surpassed the best human effort. Kurzweil, Bostrom and others believe that it is just a matter of time before technology will transform what it means to be human. The assumption is that human nature is malleable, not static. The hope is that technology can intervene to take humans to a higher level of existence and even immortality.

So my question is, what does this imply for human nature? Should Christians feel threatened by these developments?

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Danny Olmeda
Danny Olmeda
10 years ago

This is a great topic! I would like to ask, when does a human become a cyborg? Not necessarily like a RoboCop or Terminator, but with all the advances in medicine in replacement parts and neuro-surgery, when will a human past the line of no return? How will that effect our human nature?

How will that effect a bodily resurrection?

What about a person who was born in a lab? Are they any less human then those born from a mother’s womb?

With love and humility,
Danny Olmeda
TCU Class of 2011

Steve Phillips
10 years ago

Programming a computer to play Jeopardy basically requires language processing and access to a large database of facts to match with the items on the board. Those tasks are ideal for a computer. There are many human characteristics like making intentional choices, having relationships,and making moral judgements that are qualitatively quite different from playing Jeopardy.

Erik Clary
10 years ago

Interesting topic, Gary. The Watson demonstration was clearly pitted as a contest of machine versus human. The interest was in determining which – Watson or Jennings et al – could best perform a highly complex informational task with speed and accuracy as the criteria for success. A couple of thoughts came to mind as I reflected on this contest: First, lost in all the hype was the reality that the Watson challenge was ultimately a contest between humans: Jennings et al vs. Watson’s creators. The victory truly belonged not to a machine but to a group of IT specialists. Second, Watson’s “victory” could happen only if the freedom of its competitors was constrained. Jennings et al could have secured victory simply by disconnecting Watson’s power supply. Whether coerced or voluntary, the constriction of human freedom seems to come hand-in-hand with technological “success.” This is a point that CS Lewis makes so well in the final chapter of The Abolition of Man.