Man vs. Machine


Recent advances in technology are attempting to make robots life-like which can be a bad idea, unless we pursue it correctly.

Watson, a super computer designed by IBM recently won the Jeopardy “Man vs. Machine” challenge, designating another landmark in the development of artificial intelligence.

Watson, the brainchild of researchers at IBM, took the $1 million grand prize, defeating former Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. IBM split the money between two charities: World Vision and World Community Grid. Watson’s success was attributed to its ability to break down questions into parts, almost like a search engine, and to search its database to figure out the answer in a matter of seconds. Watson is the equivalent of 1440 computers, and has 54 computers of memory.

By winning, IBM has proven that sometime soon, we could be looking at robots that can think for themselves. Watson’s victory has sparked discussion about an issue among technologists worldwide: singularity.

Singularity is the technology of creating “smarter-than-human intelligence,” according to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Singular robots would be able to think for themselves and have human qualities like learning and creating.

The end goal of this program is to develop robots that continue to learn after their creation. Without updates or plug-ins, these robots could learn new skills that were not originally installed. Singularity, while unnerving to some, has the potential to be extremely beneficial.

In 1961, scientist Ray Kurzweil was featured on the show I’ve Got a Secret. Kurzweil played an original composition of music. His “secret” was that the composition the judges heard was composed by a computer, suggesting that this machine was able to think for itself. Kurzweil’s machine was the size of a desk, however, and it was simply hooked up to a typewriter.

Although modern manufacturing has more or less overcome the issue of size, creating a robot that can think for itself can still be extremely expensive, and nearly impossible for a single corporation to fund when the project involves the creation of walking, thinking, dynamic machines. The processors for IBM’s Watson cost $34,500 a piece. Not including other parts and labor, the total cost is $3 million.

That being said, the movement toward singularity could improve the fields of medicine, all types of science and even economics. Robots advance at a rate 90 times that of humans, according to an article in Time magazine, and allowing the time between large technological or medical leaps could take hours or days rather than years or months.

By 2045, it’s predicted that humans will be inventing robots that can think, create and exist in an attempt to mimick human behavior, Kurzweil said in a Time magazine article. This would be beneficial at first, but it is a terrible idea. After the robots come to life, they will be advancing at a rate faster than we can keep up with. In the 2040s, singularity should be possible, but it needs to be tested much more so things can’t and won’t go wrong, causing us to be stuck with our mistakes. Preventing major mistakes in its simplest form could come down to programing the robot to have a learning limit, but that takes away from the intelligence aspect of the project, which is still a small atom of a though in many minds.

Connor Thompson