A site of endless curiosity

Watson? What do you imagine?

with 2 comments

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

Albert Einstein Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. (1879-1955)

So. The supercomputer Watson “shellacked” a couple of human beings in Jeopardy. Not just any human beings – Watson shellacked a couple of champion Jeopardy players – Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

Maybe Watson is on the way to the Singularity (read) but it has a far way to go.  They say knowledge is power.  That may be true.  But real power, as Einstein points out, is imagination.

You can only get so far with a collection of facts – Watson has a store of 14 terabytes of reference data and 2,880 processors to pick though all that reference data to find the particular fact that it needs in response to a particular question that it is asked.  You can only get so far with simple deductive inference, if Watson is capable of that  –  “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; therefore, Socrates is mortal.”  Didn’t you already know that?  Wasn’t that “new” fact liberated by the slight of hand of syllogistic exegesis already embedded in the knowledge store you already had?  So what’s new?  Nothing.

aspiration, imagination, and passion

Having your hands on all the facts and simple logic is not the key that creates the future.  What is going to get you someplace is imagination.  There have been three killer collective attributes that differentiated man from machine and differentiated individuals from each other throughout history: aspiration, imagination, and passion.

These are truly the differentiators of individuals.  Have you every encountered people where “nothing ever occurs to them”?  They have no ideas.  Can’t think of a better way to do things?  Can’t come up with a vision of the future that is not an endless replication of the present?  My take is that this inability to have an imagination is an artifact of the spectacular success of the Industrial Age mindset epitomized by the famous quote of Henry Ford: “Why, when I ask for a pair of hands, does a brain come attached?” 

Those born digital – those born in the post industrial age – do not harbor this legacy.  And that’s not all

What is new in the globally connected digital age is networks of intellectual capital.  What happens when aspiration, imagination and passion meet in nearly frictionless global collaboration among like-minded people?

The Millennial’s feel empowered.  Here’s early 20-something Edward Harran…

We can go online in the space of 10 seconds… we have amazing initiatives and amazing people all around the world… it naturally raises my standards and raises my expectations in terms of what I can achieve.  When I see all this stuff I get  this overwhelming feeling – what the hell would I do with it.  On the other hand, when I am clear, it’s just this complete bliss and ecstasy that there is so much richness… I feel like I have the worlds collective consciousness at my finger tips and I feel so rich…

The final Jeopardy question to Watson

Robert Moog, an American pioneer of electronic music, best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesizer, died in 2005.

If anything captures the description of creative imagination it has to be this quote of Moog:

When I am thinking about how to solve a particular problem I can think about it for days and weeks and nothing will happen.  And, some day,  when I am cutting the grass, or having a hamburger, or I wake up in the middle of the night, the idea will be there.  I think it would be egotistical of me to say, “I thought of it”.  What happened, is I opened my mind up and the idea came through and into my head.  These ideas, I don’t have to dig up anything.  Sometime I don’t even have to be thinking of them  – and there they are.  It’s something between discovering and witnessing.

“Something between discovering and witnessing….”  …   “when I am clear, it’s just this complete bliss and ecstasy that there is so much richness…”  People like Moog, Harran, and others – they are the lucky ones.  Ideas, powered by imagination, just flow in like an onslaught from all directions.  For others, nothing much ever occurs to them.

In his Final Jeopardy answer, Ken Jennings wrote, “I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords,” as he conceded victory to IBM’s Watson.

The question that Watson can not answer is this: “What are you thinking?  What do you imagine”.  When Watson can answer that question like an Einstein – then yes, Jennings will be right.


Written by frrl

February 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the mention mate.


    Edward Harran

    February 24, 2011 at 10:08 am

  2. Boy Watson did great playing Jeopardy. Just imagine
    how he would have trounced the average 7 year old!

    Now imagine Watson playing Table Tennis against the
    average 7 year old. Could it return even a single

    Now imagine Watson – as it is currently programmed
    by ITS human masters – playing that same 7 year old
    in a game of Tic Tac Toe. What? You mean THAT
    hasn’t been programmed into Watson?



    February 24, 2011 at 4:28 am

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