Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Think Again

with 2 comments

So much has happened since last I wrote!

I got sick as a dog (apparently spurred on behind the early blooming of the Texas juniper cedars), but then I got well enough to travel out to San Francisco for IBM’s Think event (more on that in a moment).

The Mars Opportunity rover finally decided to call it quits after surviving 5,111 sols (the Martian day equivalent), after it was expected to only last 90! Talk about underpromising and overdelivering.

Opportunity, thanks for all the pics and memories and pics of the Martian surface — and please send Marvin our regards.

I can’t even remember what all else happened, so let me get back to Think.

I’ve attended more IBM conferences over the years than I care to count, and this was the first year in 10 years that our signature event wasn’t being held in Las Vegas.

San Francisco was a nice break from the desert landscape, but we also got lots of rain in the middle of the week.

No sooner had I landed on Monday PM that I quickly made my way over to Think land around the Moscone Center so that I could watch the Project Debater debate.

Some history: I was in the audience in NYC for one of the Deep Blue vs. Kasparov matches in 1997, and followed the chess action closely via our (then) brand new Java applet.

In 2011, I watched with amazement when IBM Watson beat the world’s best in “Jeopardy!”

But for my two cents, Project Debater takes things to the next level — using machine learning and AI to form both arguments and rebuttals in debates with a human opponent.

You can read more about Project Debater here.

If you want to learn more about the technology, check out this interview IBM Developer conducted with Dr Ranit Aharonov, the project’s team lead.

Dr. Aharanov explains that IBM’s “third grand challenge” was to develop a system that can hold its own in a full debate with a human.

One week ago Project Debater proved that she was up to the challenge.

Written by turbotodd

February 18, 2019 at 12:22 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Do you ever worry about artificial intelligence replacing human beings and making us useless, depriving us of our sense of purpose and thus our ability to feel truly happy? It’s something that kinda bothers me every time I read about stuff like this.


    February 19, 2019 at 8:11 am

  2. In a phrase, I’m not quite sure…yet. I don’t think AI will ever “replace” we humans. However, I do think there is lots of potential for significant job displacement, algorithmic AI bias, military misadventures (i.e., drones making the decisions when to fire during armed conflict, etc.), regulatory, safety, and legal issues with autonomous vehicles, and so on. On the other hand, AI is likely to be one of this century’s major technological advances (particularly in and between nation-states and profit-making entities), and it’s difficult to stop “progress.” So I think the philosophical question to ponder is how can we best evolve AI so that it keeps us competitive (both as nation-states and in organizations, including corporations), adds significant value to we humans, and minimizes its negative effects. Someone pointed out in a recent AI-related article that much of the world came together to minimize damage that chemical substances were harming the ozone layer (Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer), so I can only hold out hope for similar AI accords that minimize harm and maximize progress. If not, you may be right and our purpose will be reporting to our AI overlords!

    Todd Watson

    February 19, 2019 at 4:40 pm

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