John Searle on Watson and AI

I’ve been getting back into watching Jeopardy! which is currently airing a tournament of champions. Today’s episode featured Ken Jennings, a legend on the show who won an unprecedented 74 games in a row.

As you might expect, there have been several mentions of the IBM-programmed computer Waston, which cleaned up on the show back in 2011, besting even Jennings during its reign of terror. When I first heard about Watson in 2011, I had stopped watching the show and I hadn’t yet developed my interest in philosophy or AI. But since then I have recognized the relevance of Watson to the philosophical issue of AI.

It looks like John Searle wrote an interesting piece on Watson in the WSJ back when it was still in the headlines. I’m not an expert on AI philosophy, but I think that Searle does an excellent job of demonstrating that Watson does not show that human understanding or thinking has exceeded that of humans, because Watson cannot think — it can only blindly respond to stimuli. It’s worth a read, and it’s comments are not.

For the record (although as I said I’m not an expert on the subject) I’m a proponent of soft AI, while some of the more ignorant and angry commenters look like gung-ho hard AI types.

Kudos to Taco Bell President Brian Niccol

The fast food chain’s headman recently participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session as a promotion for his company’s foray into the breakfast market. One Canadian asked when Taco Bell plans to expand its breakfast menu north of the border. The taco chief replied “when you guys take back Justin Bieber.” 

Taco Bell, you’ve got yourself a new customer.