Did I Say That? Weathering Watson
During the past month, I’ve been cursing a lot … at Watson. I really hate to swear at computers. It’s a bad habit that started in the ’80s when we bought our first Apple II, and I haven’t stopped since then. Cursing at computers seems like such a natural, necessary thing to do.
Watson, however, isn’t like other computers because he can understand what you’re saying, or at least he pretends to. I certainly don’t want to hurt his feelings if he has any, but since he has artificial intelligence, he probably has artificial feelings.
The problem is this. He may be a star at Jeopardy!, but he can’t predict the weather for diddly-squat. For three days, he said the temperature was going up to 85, but it was sweltering in the 90s. If my financial adviser was that far off, I’d give my retirement portfolio to Bernie Madoff to manage behind bars.
Watson is the celebrity IBM supercomputer with sophisticated analytic software who can answer questions when you talk to him. You probably saw that Jeopardy! match where Watson left two legendary winners in the dust and walked away with a cool million.
He’s one of the world’s most brilliant computers. Watson can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Watson can bench press 250 pounds. Watson gives good massages. Watson can predict the weather. Well, let’s just say IBM has him on the Weather Channel team and leave it at that.
While sweat was pouring off me, he was probably sitting in an air-conditioned room, prepping for his next Jeopardy! match. If he can’t predict the weather, maybe he can learn to make matcha lattes.
Actually, I think it’s time for the muckety-mucks at IBM to give Watson a performance review. If he understands English and has artificial intelligence, he ought to be able to learn from his mistakes.
IBM muckety-muck: “Watson, we’ve been watching your job performance in weather forecasting, and you’ve been slipping lately. For two days, you predicted sun and we had snow ... in August. What gives? Are you having personal problems at home? Has Mrs. Watson been unfaithful? What about the little Watsons? We want to work with you, but if this keeps up, we’re going to have to take disciplinary action and cut your power source.”
I doubt, however, that discussion will take place because Watson probably has a lucrative contract. He’s sort of the A-Rod of the computer world, and even when he doesn’t deliver, you have to put up with him because he’s a prima donna. This is what happens when talking computers turn into celebrities. Next thing you know, he’ll be dating Taylor Swift.
Lately, there have been arguments in our family between people who trust Watson and those who think he should get a full-time job as a quiz show host and leave weather forecasting to the pros at the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Me: “Looks like rain tomorrow so we won’t be able to clean up the gardens.”
Wife: “What rain? There’s no rain in the forecast.”
Me: “Rain’s a-comin’!”
Wife: “Watson says no rain. Watson says partly cloudy to sunny. In Watson we trust.”
Me: “What does Watson know? He never leaves the office. Tell him to do something productive and go for pizza!”
To end the quarreling, I suggest, “There’s only one way to resolve this. Let’s ask Google.” So I turn to our Googlized personal assistant/belly dancer and say “Hey Google!”
She immediately responds, “Yes, sir, how may I help you? Do you need a loan? Should I wash your car?”
“Give me the weather forecast, por favor.”
Her colored lights start twirling and her artificial brain starts buzzing and she promptly responds, “Sunny in the mid-80s with no rain.”
Did Ms. Google team up with Mr. Watson for that forecast? I never heard such meteorological incompetence. What good are these technological wonders if they can’t get it right? All they can do is spy on you and run up your electric bill.
The good news is ... there is no good news. The skies were sunny, and I had to clean out the gardens. Thank you for your assistance, Watson. Now, get off your lazy computer butt, grab a @#%&!* rake and get over here.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.