Supercomputer Cheats on "Jeopardy," Ray Kurzweil and "The Singularity Is Near"

So I actually watched a bit of “Watson” the computer on Jeopardy, and it was obvious the computer seemed to have a huge advantage in timing, that he wasn’t pressing that buzzer gadget that slowed the humans down, particularly noticeable on the easier questions. ABC News reported last night that yes, the computer could answer in 1/100th of a second, faster than the humes (let’s invent a word!) could press that buzzer. Which is in effect cheating, if normally the humes are competing with each other for buzzer timing. Here’s a piece in the NY Times about the show:
But a better comparison here, and one that will give you a more complicated perspective, is the fascinating/wacky nonfiction book, Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near (2005) all about advances in A.I. and bold predictions for the future (Immortality, anyone?). It’s not a great book, but it’s charming in its loopyness. “Watson” actually reinforces some of his arguments, about the advances in computer power and abilities, including the reverse-engineering of the human brain, a way to get computers to have the creative and deductive power of humans. He’s very sanguine about it, but I find it a bit scarier, myself. And totally fascinating.

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