Thursday, February 17, 2011

the misanthropy bowl

by now, the whole OMG, the computer beat the smart humans at jeopardy! thing has been beaten into the ground. everyone's got a theory or an opinion. i think the computer's amazing, don't get me wrong. but i noticed a very distinct set of responses to this that triggered a hmm moment with me.

the tech boys (and probably girls - i just didn't see any) out there were all REALLY, REALLY eager to see that computer just WAX the people. i mean, there was a level of frenzy i read and observed out in the tech world to see the humans get beaten down like rented mules. lord knows that the tech boys in my personal life were all about some computer overlord. they were dying for watson to turn around and start in with the ezekiel 25:17 scene from pulp fiction: and you will KNOW! my name is THE LORD! when i LAY my vengeance upon you. [hail of gunfire] well, in watson's case, it'd probably be lasers or something like that, but the point still stands.

and heaven forfend that the reaction you have didn't rise to that level of eagerness. the man and i spent easily 25 minutes going around and around in circles last night because the facet of the experience that i chose to mention was the onslaught of IBM branding that permeated the entire 90 minutes of television. my position was that the company saturated all three shows with corporate branding. his position was that noticing anything other than the majesty of the technology diminished that majesty. well, i'm sorry; i can offer no statement as to that majesty besides, holy hell, that's cool. i don't live the technological life, a life that is as cloistered as they come. i know more about computers than most, but i am a dilettante, and i always will be. the boys tease me about there being a "moat" around their tech-world. it's a joke, but they're more right than they think. i'm a lawyer. i notice details. and the detail i passed comment on was the branding aspect. that triggered a reaction that was so forceful in its vehemence that it left me defensive and confused.

it seems like the man's reaction was the very mild end of a continuum of the tech-boy response that has led me to dub the whole operation "the misanthropy bowl." it's the clearest and most accessible example of technology's supposed supremacy to humanity that we've seen short of science fiction. and though the machine that constituted watson was dismantled shortly after the shows were taped, the way it works could potentially change the way we look at the world. i think this is awesome, and it'll make people's lives easier. some people, i think, look at this and see a way to subordinate people to the clean, logical mastery that technology brings. well, no thank you. i am often frustrated with people, to say the least. we can be stupid, bigoted, beastly, fatuous, illogical, messy, and all that. but that doesn't mean that i don't think we're also, as a rule, funny, warm, brilliant, open and capable of amazing things. y'know, like inventing technologies like watson. without people, there IS no technology. some among us would do well to remember that.




    I think it's funny that the technoboys have blinders on. Scott and I didn't watch it, but if we had all he would have noticed would have been THE ROBOT. At least it's endearing, right?

    And you're damn right about our being funny, warm, brilliant, etc.

  2. I'm a "tech boy," but I don't find this Watson thing at all interesting. "Look ma, I can build a really fast search engine!" *shrug*


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