CORVALLIS, Ore. – “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination,” wrote Albert Einstein before his death on April 18, 1955, at age 76; while, a new IBM computer named “Watson” is touted to be the new Einstein because it can compute and even read at an incredible rate.
Einstein's brain better than Watson's, say experts
“Watson” is a super computer that’s about the size of “10 refrigerators,” stated its “official biography” issued at the IBM Research headquarters in Yorktown Heights, New York. IBM showcased “Watson” to the world during a recent Jeopardy TV game show program when the machine beat contestants in a duel of trivia. IBM describes Watson’s avatar as “a global map projection with a halo of ‘thought rays’ that flicker and flash when it’s thinking.”
Unlike Einstein, the legendary physics professor and brilliant scientist who played a crucial role in the discovery of nuclear fission – and who was a passionate pacifist who spent the later years of his life agonizing over his part in the creation of the nuclear age – Watson is simply a big computer that turned green when it answered a Jeopardy trivia questions correctly, then orange when it got the answer wrong.
When asked about the coming age of computers, Einstein simply answered “it’s a machine,” and nothing more.
Unlike the human brain that uses chemicals to transmit information, Watson uses massive amounts of electricity through electrical signals. IBM”s biography of Watson states it uses “15 terabytes of RAM, and 2,880 processor cores and can operate at 80 teraflops for 80 trillion operations per second.”
Moreover, Watson can scan the “2 million pages of content in its ‘brain’ in less than three seconds. The system is not connected to the Internet, but totally self-contained,” states IBM.
According to IBM’s senior vice president and director of IBM research, Dr. John E. Kelly III, “We are at a moment where computers and computer technology now have approached humans. We have created a computer system that has the ability to understand natural human language, which is a very difficult thing for computers to do.”
Watson is named for IBM founder Thomas J. Watson. IBM also touts this supercomputer as “one of the most advanced systems on Earth and was programmed by 25 IBM scientists over the last four years.”
Watson’s “brain” contains more than 200 million pages of content, or equal to one million books that were “scanned” into its memory banks.
As for the price tag, IBM states that a “Power 750 server retails for $34,500, and that the 90 Power 750 servers that make up Watson would cost $3 million.”
Watson vs. Albert Einstein
While all this information about IBM's new super computer may sound impressive, a retired computer science professor here at the University of Oregon in Corvallis thinks Watson or any current artificial intelligence machine “could never be another Einstein.”
“First, you have to understand that Watson is not anywhere as complex as a human brain, and certainly not par with Einstein’s brain,” explained Professor Larry Welton. “Also, Watson has no imagination. And, one of Einstein’s most famous quote is: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’”
Moreover, Watson and the next generation of “thinking computers” can’t solve problems, in the same way as Einstein solved them.
"We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” explained Einstein during a Princeton University lecture in 1952.
Welton points out that Einstein should know something about Watson and computers in general "since his work helped to make quantum physics possible, and without such work today’s modern technology – to include computers and even Watson – might still be unknown today."
It was in 1905 that Einstein made his famous equation: E=mc2 without the aid of computers, said Welton.
In turn, “Einstein feared these super computers because a machine would not stop to think if it was ordered or programmed to drop a nuclear bomb," he added.
Towards the end of his life, Einstein was also reflective about God as the “plus” in life, and the devil or evil as the “minus.” Einstein also wrote about love and his passion for Nature that he could touch, feel and even smell. Even the powerful supercomputer Watson can do none of these things, state a host of international computer experts about the merits of Einstein "thinking" over what a computer today can achieve.
“When men are engaged in war and conquest,” said Einstein, “the tools of science become as dangerous as a razor in the hands of a child.”
“The fate of mankind,” he said, “depends entirely on our sense of morality.”
It’s clear that super computers such as Watson have no concept of morality or love. They are not human, but, as Einstein warned, they can harm humans.