The John Henry Syndrome

Imbolc                                                       Full Bridgit Moon

Watson.  Won at Jeopardy.  Big time.  Over the best player of the game ever.  Human player.  The coverage has interested me because it showcases what we might call the John Henry syndrome.  Each time a machine takes on a task thought uniquely human and masters it, then beats a human competitor, we go into human self-examination mode.  Are we still necessary?  Will machines replace us?  The human Jeopardy champion, Ken Jennings, wrote on his final Jeopardy answer, “I for one welcome our new computer overlords.”  Humor?  Or, irony?  Both?

Here’s one clear difference.  Watson is not sitting at home tonight, feet up on an ottoman, wondering if the next hunk of big iron will replace him.  Nope.  He’s just sitting.  Maybe warming his transistors or his circuit boards, drawing a little extra juice to keep things humming, but self doubt?  No.

We wonder.  We step back from a situation and observe, ask questions, then process them in a complex, data rich environment foreign to the world of bits and bytes.  Bring on the machines.  All of’em.  I’m not even worried about the Kurzweil singularity.  If it happens, we’ll never know, right?  Where is that ottoman?

This entry was posted in GeekWorld, Humanities and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.