IBM’s Watson swallows 1,900 TED talks, can now bore you to death
It’s good to have a mentor.
You know, someone who’ll guide you through life’s vicissitudes and do it with slightly sad eyes and a knowing smile of a pain that’s passed.
I’m not sure, though, that I want my mentor to be a large metal box that thinks it’s really good at “Jeopardy.”
It seems, you see, that IBM’s Watson supercomputer has been fed every single TED talk and can now offer meaningful advice instantly.
This all originally came about when representatives from IBM and TED met in a corridor. No fists were thrown. No one taunted the other with: “We are smarter than you are!”
Instead, they decided to collaborate by shoveling all 1,900 TED talks into Watson and making him a repository of humanity’s latest wisdoms — or just strange thoughts that make others consider disappearing to a remote island where there are no more TED talks.
TED started in 1984 as a conference focused on the intersection of technology, entertainment and design. Should you have never experienced a TED talk, these involve various people disseminating “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Some are clearly worth spreading more than others.
Kai Young, IBM Watson Group’s program director, told Business Insider that Watson is now a “discovery engine.”
“We can move beyond keywords to the actual ideas and insights that are part of the speakers’ content. A lot of different signals — silences, points of applause, laughter — help to understand a video, rather than just the description someone gave it.”
Well, yes. But will Watson understand that some silences reflect deep thinking, while others reflect deep boredom? And laughter can mean that someone is funny, as well as that someone is a touch pitiable. Can Watson distinguish between the two?
After some digestion, you can soon try the EmTEDded Watson for yourself. An IBM spokeswoman told me that the app is still in development, but rumor has it that a beta version may be available sometime in the summer.
On the new site, Emily McManus, TED.com’s editor, says: “It’s powerful to see how computers and humans can work together to answer hard questions and make knowledge more accessible.”
I signed up. The first (and only) thing I received was a request for Watson to “access your resources.” I paused. Wasn’t I supposed to access Watson’s resources first? Was he trying to cheat already, like a Tarot reader asking me so much about my private life that, goodness, suddenly she has all the answers?
There is a demo on YouTube to show how it will work when finally available. You ask Watson a deep philosophical question and he attempts to wade through his knowledge of TED talks to produce a clip from some modern Yoda who will make you think.
Clearly, we all need help. And there’s a certain cost-effectiveness about being able to click a few buttons and receive wisdom that might not have been received yet by everyone.
The thing is, though, that these wisdoms change. What happens when there are two TED talks that offer the opposite advice? Which one will Watson choose? This could affect your whole future.