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Watson: You can be way smarter. As long as you do not look like me

By 04/01/20124 Comments

Remember Watson? The IBM computer that successfully beat the living beejezus out of an army of Jeopardy champions? Turns out most people think it’s kind of cute. Same thing happened when Deep Blue (still called Deep Thought in 1997) won over six chess games against world champion Garry Kasparov.

It’s cute that a machine beats a human. Just… don’t call it thought: that would be immensely disturbing. Deep Blue is fine Deep Thought is creepy. Watson is fine, as long as he looks like a set of silicon on steroids. It needs to stay a thing. Our psychological and ethical sensors seem to take all AI (artificial intelligence) nudging machines as ultimately creepy when they take a human form.

Admit… you would not mind losing to a chess computer. Chess computers are built to outperform and outsmart us. But, imagine a chess computer looking like this?

What people find most disturbing in Watson is not that it (he?) has tremendous linguo-analytic capabilities, parallel thinking power and advanced AI logarithms… but that it speaks. People would prefer it to just dot words on a screen.

Humanity my age and older does not want to see computers and interfaces become human, in any way. Younger generations however are completely fine with human/machine interaction that is stooled on humanoid processes. Computers with a human voice, looking like us – be it on screen or in real life- do not disturb the gen-Y’ers in any way. Can you imagine a Google interface that looks and talks like Hale Berry? We are not that far off! Watch how Kate interacts with virtual Milo in this Microsoft Kinect demo:

David Levy, PhD, goes further by showing that psychology has identified roughly a dozen basic reasons why people fall in love, “and almost all of them could apply to human-robot relationships. For instance, one thing that prompts people to fall in love are similarities in personality and knowledge, and all of this is programmable. Another reason people are more likely to fall in love is if they know the other person likes them, and that’s programmable too.” Levy predicts that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them

Maybe that is why grumpy old men like me do not want our gear to look too human. A robot looking like George Clooney, with my sparkling personality, and IBM Watson smart would simply be too hard to compete with! 😉


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