If you missed Jeopardy the last few nights, you missed something big! IBM’s Watson commercials are inspiring, but you can’t grasp the weight of their accomplishment in computing until you see it in action. Watson is a supercomputer that can analyze information from millions of sources, looking for patterns in data and human language, focusing on the best of the best of all the available information and then discern the likelihood that it’s discovered the right answer. (Think about a doctor researching a diagnosis – how much time would it take this Dr. to scan all of the available sources, work through differing opinions, and make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan? Watson could help medical professionals make more accurate diagnoses in seconds!)

Watson isn’t the only cool thing under works at IBM. Check out the Fox New article ‘Big Blue vs. Big Red’ – which introduces ‘Mira’, a super computer that its creators expect will be able to run 10 petaflops (that’s 10 quadrillion calculations per second!) while China currently claims the honor of the fastest computer at a mere 4 petaflops.

All of this computer talk has a few of us wondering if artificial intelligence and super-computers are getting closer to replacing humans for good! In fact, I see similar parallels in the way marketers are on the hunt to automate marketing and sales processes. We often ask ourselves ‘how can we replicate that (expensive) in-person interaction online?’

So, are we on the cusp of iRobot like days?

Not likely, and here’s why.

Watson isn’t always right. In fact, he missed Tuesday’s final Jeopardy (so did I).(check out PC world’s coverage.)
Jeopardy contestant Brad Rutter made an interesting observation of Watson, saying ‘they haven’t unlocked the common sense gene’. Perhaps part of the reason why IBM developers stress that Watson should be referred to as an ‘it’ and not a ‘he’. And in my world, we can certainly become more efficient by automating what the best sales and marketing professionals would do/say in person, but there is still something to be said for those face-to-face (or should I say human to human) interactions. So, although Watson and Mira are no small feat in computing, it looks like replacing human reasoning and emotion isn’t so elementary, after all.

What do you think? What experiences have you had where you’ve wished you were dealing with a real person – or conversely, where you wish that person were a machine?