“I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords,”
Enjoying Jeopardy! isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the epic, age-old battle between man and machine (though it helps.) See: IBM Watson, the latest iteration of the room-sized super-computer.
According to IBM, Watson is a question answering machine with the ability to hear questions phrased in natural language and return precise answers. (The exact degree of precision is debatable, but the point of Watson’s infallible knoweldge is clear.)
It should come as no surprise at all that Watson mopped the floor with Jennings and Rutter as it did. It’s safe to say that Watson’s buzzer-beating gave the trivia encyclopedia an edge. The irony is not lost on me, however, that while Jennings and Rutter have knowledge that could likely fill a room, Watson actually does have an entire room devoted to housing its knowledge.
Of all the interesting pieces we can pick up and turn over, the one that excites me the most is where we invoke Star Trek. IBM is near the brink of a computer capable of handling the elaborate dialogue of Computer on the long-running sci-fi series.
A few years ago when ereaders were still the newest of the new gadgets, the element that I believe set it furthest apart from the traditional printed page is the ability to connect your book with the internet. Query searches direct from the page could revolutionize the spread of knowledge.
Imagine reading the latest issue of Found Press Quarterly, asking aloud “I wonder what Cynthia Flood meant when she said…” and in less than half a second your device delivers aggregated search results from the author’s own writing and biography; reviews, criticism, and discussion of that particular story; and notes from her wikipedia entry, twitter account and more, that an intelligent question-answering machine can pull from the ether based on it’s ability to contextualize your question.
Discussions can happen in real-time with other users as you read along, simply by inquiring along the way. Talk about turning the traditional book club on its head.
To these possibilities and more, I say “Make it so.”**Disclaimer: Found Press and all members associated with it claim whole-heartedly to not be trekkies. The opinions expressed here are those of the author alone, who likely has several Star Trek replicas stored in a very safe place in her apartment.