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Stay Away Watson, We Don't Want You

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Tonight IBM's giant trivia (natural language) computer will go up against two of the top Jeopardy! champions of champions and I will watch. Not to see who wins but to see if this really is just another sign of the end of human civilization by looking at how people comment on the event tomorrow.

People have given up so much control of their lives to computers, readily accepting explanations of outrageous situations "Because the computer makes us do it that way," or "Because the computer says so and we can't change the record for three weeks."

They already decide who we date and marry. That's what the popularity of eHarmony, Zoosk and Plenty of Fish dating sites really means.

Are people finally so conditioned that they are ready to give up their own brains by letting computers remember everything for them and even do all their thinking for them?

It seems odd to people who know that I've worked most of my life in the computer industry either for Wang Labs or the many publishers of computer magazines and books, but I'm NOT in favor of computers doing everything. For one thing, I don't see people as disposable and although a single computer in a store can replace a dozen or a thousand clerks, I remember that while the computer doesn't have hopes, ambitions, or a family to feed, the clerks do.

There is more to life than making things easier and faster. Especially more to business than making money and tossing out employees as quickly as possible - I seem to recall several fictional accounts related to this:

Scrooge who didn't learn from his apprentice days and treat his employees well.

1984 - look up at that camera on every corner in London or The "Patriot" Act.

And Frankenstein where the monster never even earned himself a name.

In the movie 2010 movie producers already felt the need to rehabilitate the HAL-9000 by having it become self-sacrificing.

But back to Watson. Computers are wonderful if used correctly. Automobiles were once thought to be an unmitigated benefit to society also - it turned out they had drawbacks. DDT looked like a good idea too at one time.

Will a computer replace contestants on Jeopardy!? Not unless people will pay to watch computers play games. Of course some will, that's what actually happens in video games, the game is really playing itself most of the time, it can do a better job without the human interference but they still let humans push some buttons.

It's certainly possible to have computers do more and more jobs. But shouldn't people have some purpose in life also?

Just what is more important?

Even the telephone seemed like a good idea when Bell said "Come here Watson, I need you."

Did it seem such a good idea the last time a telemarketer interrupted your dinner?

How will feel about it the next time some moron walks into traffic because they are texting another idiot about who they just saw in some store?

Replacing workers with computers is all well and good until you wonder who is going to be left to pay you to do the things YOU do for a living.

Well Darwin will eventually prove more powerful than Watson or the Crackberry.

Can you hear me now?

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.

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