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Just what do you think you're doing, Alex?

Resistance is futile.

Remember HAL 9000?  The deadly T-2000?  Sensitive David?  The Nexus 6 replicants?  Cylons?  Reaching even further back, there’s Gort, Maria…even Robby!  It wasn’t too long ago that computers and robots which paralleled or exceeded human ability were reserved exclusively for sci-fi and fantasy films.  It’s a familiar story: man makes machine.  Man is served by machines.  Machines advance and evolve.  Machines eventually revolt against their maker.  Running.  Explosions.  Kablooie.  End of humanity.

However, as technological achievements catch up to human imagination, the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred.  If such films as BLADE RUNNER or 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY present a cautionary tale, it may very well be the beginning of the end. The producers of Jeopardy! and Skynet…whoops, IBM…are in discussions to allow an IBM supercomputer known as Watson to compete on the show against human competitors.  Hardly IBM’s first foray into artificial intelligence, Watson is preceded by another supercomputer known as Deep Blue which beat chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.  We’ve come a long way since the Turk

While discussions are underway and IBM geniuses continue to refine and reform Watson in a similar manner to Cybertronics and the Tyrell Corporation, anthropomorphication has certainly not been neglected.  It may not be too much longer until computers become “more human than human”:

The contest is an effort by the IBM engineers to choose “grand challenges” that will help them make significant technical progress in AI. The rules proposed for the contest will force Watson to emulate all human qualities. Questions posed to Watson will be in text format while players will see text and hear the questions spoken by the show’s host.

The computer will offer answers to the question via a synthesized voice and will choose its own follow up categories. IBM says that for the show, the computer would not be connected to the internet. How Watson will be presented and what gender the computer will be are under consideration. A screen and a projected avatar are one consideration.

As life comes closer to imitating art, take a look at Trebek talking about Watson:

[article in the New York Times]