Tuesday, February 15, 2011


In the time I have been writing this blog I have occasionally, indicated the company that for whom I work.  Often I just refer to it as "my employer", but sometimes I spell it.  I work for IBM.  I have been part of IBM since 2002 when my previous employer - PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Consulting was acquired by IBM. PWC Consulting was the consulting division of the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers. We were spun off as a result of the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002.  The Sarbanes Oxley act required accounting companies to maintain independence from the companies that they audited - which meant they couldn't do consulting work for them.  Given this law we were spun off to pursue better opportunities in the market place. 

Though the acquisition resulted in most of the people with whom I worked being laid off or quitting, the acquisition was a good thing, as PWC was considering spinning off the consulting division into it's own company that was to be called "Monday".  (Dear God - who in their right mind came up with that name!  We would have failed right out of the gates because of that name!)

I mention all of this because of the TV event that is happening this week on the game show Jeopardy.  This week a supercomputer developed by IBM - code named Watson, is competing against the all time most winning human players.  This is actually very scary when you start to think about it.  What this means is that "Watson" is able to effectively think and process information in direct competition against humans.  This isn't the simple task of executing millions, billions or trillions of computations in second, this is almost like thought.  "Watson" is able to interpret the questions, analyze what is being asked, search through it's "memory", decide what fact in it's "memory" is correct and then articulate the answer it has arrived at.

"Watson" is a very amazing supercomputer.  It's technical specs will leave any geek with their jaw scraping the floor in amazement.  Here are the basics of what makes up "Watson"
  • 90 IBM Power 750 servers enclosed in 10 racks
  • 16 Terabytes of memory
  • A 2,880 processor core
  • Linux operating system
  • Watson is estimated to have cost $1-$2 billion
  • Uses "DeepQA": a technology that enables computer systems to directly and precisely answer natural language questions over an open and broad range of knowledge
Bottom line - that is one amazingly powerful computer.  But the sick thing is...  give it a few years and that processing power will be available on a device the size of a smart phone of today.

So what's the point of all this?  The point is critical thinking intelligence is no longer going to be limited to human beings.  With the advent of "Watson" and the computers that will inevitably follow in the wake of "Watson", we will need to deal with a whole new class of sentient beings - computers.  This is one of the scariest thoughts my mind has processed.  It will effect all of us, because in the future there will be a second group of "organisms" on this planet that possess human like levels of intelligence or greater.  How will we deal with our creations?  How will we keep them in check?  Someone better start thinking about all of this cause in 20 - 30 years we will be dealing with it.  Hopefully it will all come out better than the situation in the Terminator movies - when "SkyNet" decided that humans weren't the best alternatives for this planet.  Don't laugh...  because at some point that critical thinking power will be sentient and start making decisions for it's best interests.

In the end run, I feel proud that my company is at the forefront of these developments.  I just hope that as we employ the computer scientists and programmers who have made "Watson" a reality, we are also employing the philosophers and ethics thinkers who will give "Watson" and it's descendants morality.

Just a few freaky thoughts for this day after Valentines Day!  I hope everyone had a great V-Day yesterday.  I shared my Valentines Day with Shelly and we had a wonderful evening going to dinner and just hanging out together.  It was fantastic.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


1 comment:

tcsTenor said...

Glad to hear that the love of your life is back IN your life!! God *does* work in our lives and those around us. :-D Always pray, always. Not just in bad times, but in good times also. Always pray thanksgiving in your life and include those who are hurting and suffering as well.

So happy for you, Jerry!!!

Robin in TX