[Spoiler Alert?] Last night on Jeopardy! Watson, IBM's question-answering AI, soundly whupped his human competition (Jep! champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter) but the computer isn't taking his million dollar prize and going to Disney Land. Oh no, instead our future robot overlord is taking its tech and heading to... Columbia University Medical Center (the prize money is going to charity).
In its first real-world tests, the bot will be used to help doctors evaluate patients. So, for example, a doctor diagnosing a patient could use the 10-server brain "to rapidly consider all the related texts, reference materials, prior cases, and latest knowledge in journals and medical literature to gain evidence from many more potential sources than previously possible." In a release Dr. Herbert Chase, professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, says that the school believes that the computer “has the ability to help doctors provide personalized treatment options that are tailored to an individual patient's needs.” We'll see if that holds true!
So does the fact that a computer can beat humans at a trivia game have you ready to freak out about Skynet going live and the singularity striking? Don't fret, the Post is here to reassure you. While the paper Alexander Hamilton founded was able to find an expert who says the Terminator scenario could happen ("People will continue trying to get computers to better mimic the functions of the human brain, so it's possible.") the same guy argues a more likely possibility for the near future is one like in Minority Report, which they incorrectly remember as having computers who can predict the future (they were people!). "With Facebook and Twitter, there is so much more personal information for computers to track and potentially predict what a person will do," he told them.
Meanwhile, in a mea culpa in today's Daily News contestant Ken Jennings points out that while Watson is smart—really smart—it isn't actually that much better than humans. It is, however, way better than us at pushing the notoriously tricky Jeopardy! buzzer:
If it knows the answer, it makes the perfect buzz. Every single time. And it's hard to win if you can't buzz. Imagine if John Henry had to beat the steam engine at a feat of brute strength just to be allowed to swing his hammer, or if chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov had to solve a long-division problem faster than supercomputer Deep Blue every time he moved a piece in their epic match.
Either way, we're not going to get too worried about computers taking over a world until they start threatening our jobs. Oh, wait...