Press "Enter" to skip to content

Humans and robots

Robots are near and dear the hearts of any sci-fi fan. Robots spell both hope and fear for the future. But we don’t have to wait until the future to have fun with our robots. Today we have robots playing Jeopardy and we find Detroit in need of a robot hero.

Strike a pose and stay out of trouble
Strike a pose and stay out of trouble

Thank you for your cooperation

I’m a huge Robocop fan. I remember seeing Robocop in the fourth grade and it was the best movie I’ve ever seen. It had robots, guns, violence, explosions and even and acid play…it was hard to beat. Robocop takes place in Detroit which even in 1987 was known for its crime and ghetto state, and some things never change. But there is hope for Detroit…in the form of a Robocop statue.

It seems there is a grassroots effort to get a Robocop statue erected in Detroit. By way of Kickstarter you too can donate what you want (at least a dollar) to help make the statue happen. I’ve made my donation but I’m not sure they’ll reach the $50,000 they “need” to make it happen. What type of statue costs 50Gs I’m not sure, but it better be made out of solid gold be able to repeat the prime directives. Nonetheless, I would go to Detroit to see a Robocop statue…and then promptly leave. The precedence for this project is the Rocky statue in Philadelphia and even a bronze Fonz in Wisconsin, and frankly, I agree…why shouldn’t Detroit have a Robocop statue?

Of course, for every party there is a pooper. There’s also a campaign to stop the Robocop statue, claiming that the 50 grand could be used for much better things than a statue and I can’t argue that. But I’m also of the opinion that is someone says they need $50K to build a statue and they raise enough money, they should be able to use that to build a statue. Ultimately it’s up to the people donating. If nobody wanted a Robocop statue then nobody would be donating money, right? Currently the amount raised sits at $25,000…half way there…so clearly it’s something people are interested in. But when this happens, the plaque on the statue needs to read “Stay out of trouble”.

All hail our new robot leader!
All hail our new robot leader!

When knowledge isn’t enough

In other recent robot news, IBM’s latest super computer is playing Jeopardy, taking on two of the best Jeopardy champions of all time. The artificial intelligence in the Watson super computer is very impressive. It picks up on hints and clues and other things that we thought only humans could pick up on. Watson isn’t perfect and sometimes gets confused but all in all, it’s a great gimmick that shows that Skynet is probably closer to reality that we realize.

And while we have fun watching man versus machine, I need to take a moment and explain why I don’t think it’s a fair fight. Knowledge is not enough to win Jeopardy. Knowing the answers to trivia is important, granted, but reaction time is almost more important because without it your knowledge means nothing.

Many years ago I went to a taping of Jeopardy and it really changed how I watched the game at home. You think Jeopardy is simply a game of hitting the buzzer first and answering the trivia questions, right? Not exactly. What you don’t see on TV is that there is a ring of lights around big question board. After Alex reads his questions these lights will blink and that’s the signal that tells the contestants they can buzz in to answer…from here the first person to buzz in wins. But if you buzz in before the lights blink, you’re locked out.

So even if you know the answer to the question if you don’t have your timing down it won’t matter. If your hand-eye coordination is slow or off, you won’t stand a chance. Yes, Ken Jennings and the other guy are smart men that know the answers, but they also have the buzzer timing down to rhythm and science. Even though a computer might have an advantage in timing the lights perfectly every time, Watson is facing the best of the best…the best us humans we have to offer…and what more can we ask?

All that being said, I would like to welcome our new robot overlords and look forward to serving them as best I can.