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February 26 2011 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0, Miscellany

Why IBM’s Watson Computer is Still a Moron

“The computer is a moron” – Peter Drucker

 

Computer programming technology is still dominated by “if – then” logic.  That means computers are still using logic (human programmed) to determine the answer to a question which must be part of a pool of answers.  If the answers are not in the pool, the computer will not find the answer. 

Where humans diverge from computers is the emotional intelligence we bring to an issue or problem.  We also bring past experiences and intuition.  So when we’re confronted with a situation we’ve never faced before, we use experience, emotion and intuition to solve the problem. 

I doubt computers will ever surpass true human intelligence (with one caveat below).  Sure they’ll find the answers to Jeopardy questions faster, but it will be a long time into the future before they’ll be able to apply a superior approach to solving  issues that humans face.

I base that not on any scientific research but on being human.  Allow me to take you outside of your body for a moment and picture being born in a computer.  You’ve never had arms, legs, feelings, emotion, or human touch. You’ve never cheered for your son or daughter at soccer; never cried at the loss of a loved one.  You’ve never been married, had kids, bought a house or experienced anything resembling a human emotion. 

Instead you’ve spent your entire existence locked in a box without out the ability to experience being human. For all intents and purposes you are a one dimensional savant.

So now that we’ve set the stage for you being a computer, allow me to pose a few questions that you’ll never see on Jeopardy

  1. Between Jim and Betty, who is the better person to lead our new social initiative while creating a more transparent culture?
  2. Can you create an operational strategy to achieve these revenue objectives?
  3. How would you rate the CEO’s speech on employee morale?
  4. How do you think this marketing campaign will impact our customers and prospective customers?
  5. Is this chair comfortable?
  6. Can you come up with some conceptual (physical and data) models to improve our next generation product?
  7. Was Jim’s joke funny?

 

As an “if – then” savant, you wouldn’t have the emotional intelligence to answer questions 1 – 7.  Moreover you certainly don’t have the capacity for 1 + 1 = 3 thinking required to create a strategy in question 2. 

Worse, forget about innovation.  Without understanding humans (how can you understand a human without walking in their shoes), there’s little hope to create a product or service that appeals to human beings.  

The One Caveat

If, and that’s a big IF, we are able to create a computer android  that was able to experience true human touch (the test here is – can I give it goose bumps?), and human emotion (crying, laughing, pleasure, pain etc.), and was able to reproduce through pleasurable means (sex is an important part of human culture – so is the drive to reproduce), then it’s possible  that we could produce an artificial intelligence bio-computer capable of truly making better decisions for human beings. 

Summary

I doubt we’ll ever see a computer capable of making better decisions than humans.  In controlled circumstances where the answer already exists IBM’s Watson has proved it can defeat human intelligence.  Unfortunately for its founders, creating a computer that can make better decisions than humans in a business and life context is not practical (and may never be). 

I feel the issue is one of being human.  Making intelligent decisions for humans requires being human.   And without the context of being human over a prolonged period of time along with a lack of relevant human contextual knowledge in a given situation will never produce an optimal decision.  

So we’re left with a best case scenario where computers increase the human batting average for making optimal decisions.  In fact, we’re right around the corner.  But allowing computers to make decisions for us is a long way off.

Better stick with the Q&A for now.  Can you hear me Watson? 

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