‘Watson’ embodies shift in robotic technology

by Amy Devito

The emergence of new robotic technology is both a thrilling and frightening concept to many. Only time will tell whether new developments will be helpful. Courtesy of IBM
The emergence of new robotic technology is both a thrilling and frightening concept to many. Only time will tell whether new developments will be helpful. Courtesy of IBM

Computers have just about paralleled human intelligence in almost every aspect, but a machine with an exceptional database has never been presumed to triumph mankind. But when IBM’s Watson computer proved its worth as a true contender on Jeopardy, trouncing two of the game show’s champions, that’s exactly what happened.

The fact that a computer can now comprehend natural language brings new promise to the world of technology, breaking through in business and society with seemingly limitless potential.

What does this mean for humanity and what will arise in the new age of computer ingenuity? The once outlandish thought of robots vanquishing mankind is now being thought possible, at least academically.

Research centers for artificial intelligence are aggrandizing their progress, giving computers abilities once exclusively belonging to humans. This affirms not only advancement in intelligence, but also a continuing elevation of society’s standards. If all businesses pursue the artificial intelligence revolution, this is going to be yet another benchmark achievement that will forever transform mankind.

However, it’s important to think of the possible repercussions of this accomplishment, both the beneficial and detrimental effects. What will happen if these extraordinary machines with extensive storage capacity and an accelerated ability to attain information have the competency to listen and respond as humans do?

What first comes to mind is that jobs will potentially be compromised. Computers can and will stand in for people, just as the industrial revolution swept out many skilled laborers. But just think exactly how many jobs can use a computer as a replacement — essentially any job that requires any sort of transaction or communication. That accounts for a majority of the nation’s careers. This economy does not need another stress factor to add to the already chaotic decline of businesses.

Before this is pushed any further, people need to think about what they really want. Set aside the excitement for a minute, because once one computer is put to work, corporations might be more inclined to choose an impeccable machine that doesn’t ask for a salary or benefits. Additionally, will it really be a better world when all of our transactions are done through a computer?

There is a major shift arising in society, and it will affect all fields of life: education, sciences and markets. Giving a computer the dexterity of thought is an exhilarating, yet frightening, idea. Humans are unique because of their superior thinking processes and ability to interpret various languages, constantly expanding communicative abilities. Once people give that power to a machine, there will certainly be a threatening competition, as the results of Jeopardy exhibited.

Before stepping into this new technical realm, it is important to ask what it means to be human. Are future generations be prepared to allow artificial brilliance to usurp what was once solely human?