Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I can't be the only Futurist out there watching (well, following...since I'm always at work @ 4:30) Watson roll over the brilliant human competition on Jeopardy this week. Not only is it entertaining, but for a librarian it is scary--this machine is able to more often than not bring back correct answers to clever questions.

On the Smarter Planet blog, Steve Canepa says "The DeepQA technology that powers Watson signals a new age in computing and information analytics"--and this new age certainly has implications for information-finding librarians! At our Futurist meetings we agree that one of our long term, value-added services is that we can help people to find the "right" information for their needs. One of the reasons this service is unique is because librarians, being humans, know how to understand another human's question, the nuances of it, word connotations, and context. Will further improved DeepQA technology (remember, Watson the Jeopardy champ is the first big-time prototype to my knowledge) make this human-to-human service obsolete? How should librarians reinvent themselves if people can speak into a machine ("I like the Harry Potter series, Watson, so what kind of tattoo should I get?") and get a "right" answer (What is "a snitch")?

What do you guys think?

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  1. I think this is brilliant--I need to read more about it seems, in my opinion, that getting people the "right" information helps further info gathering, evaluating and using. Maybe we can spend more time on complex stuff if these sort of easy level is taken care of.

  2. All this talk about Watson and Jeopardy! (which I love) reminded me about an article I read in The Atlantic a couple weeks ago about people not being able to tell the difference between people and machines when conversing online anymore. It definitely feels twilight zone-y.

    A link to the article:

    And since I can't help but seeing everything in life related to a book I've read, it also reminded me of the computer in www:wake by Robert Sawyer where a signal-processing implant meant to allow a blind girl to see suddenly becomes aware.