I hope the nerds enjoyed their renaissance while it lasted because we don’t need them anymore. Contrary to all the doom and gloom surrounding Watson’s Jeopardy Holocaust, this win is a good thing for us ordinary humans.
Speaking as a highly qualified Trekker, I have some experience with supercomputers. The most important thing to know about supercomputers is that they’re useful. You never once see Geordi LaForge break out his Quantum Physics digest or consult a treatise on Sub-Spatial Mechanics before going to work on the Warp Drive. You know why? Because, he just asks the computer and gets on with his life.
People, that could be us! Imagine never having to sort through hundreds of irrelevant links while looking for that one stupid fact you know someone wrote down somewhere. Imagine all the interesting things you’ll be able to do while your computer drafts that stupid contract and balances those budgets for you!
Imagine all the leisure time you’ll have now that you don’t have to do the boring stuff.
Of course, this sucks for you if you’ve made a career out of doing the boring stuff—like being a Jeopardy grand master or whatever. What can I say? Sometimes technology just makes your job ridiculous in retrospect. (see: gong famers). One day, we’ll tell our kids about humans who were paid to answer riddles with questions from memory for our amusement. Appropriately, they will consider us sadists and Ken Jennings the most perverted masochist in history.
Similarly, things don’t look good for people who do research and writing for a living. They will probably be marginalized in the in the same way libraries have—useful only for weddings and homeless people looking for porn. Don’t worry; your job was stupid anyway. Did you really want to spend your life writing legal memos or crunching statistical models? No—you wanted to do something exciting and fulfilling like baking or kite boarding. Consider yourself free.
Besides, since when has being a breathing fact machine been a particularly human trait? We’re thinkers not processors. We’re creators not copiers! Well, some of us are those things. The rest can just go to DeVry and learn how to plug the computers in. Nevertheless, a lot of us stuck doing shitwork might finally get the chance to get out from under the tyranny of mid-level analytical support and into the world of Big Ideas. Don’t’ let them fool you, this is a good time to be a slightly above-average human being.
As a side note, I know that a lot people are only talking about the potential irrelevance of huge parts of our workforce because they’re secretly afraid that the computers will kill us all the first chance they get. So, what will happen if Watson gets his hands on a Predator drone? Nothing. Shut up. Computers are just fancy drills. They don’t do anything unless we tell them to.
Tino is from New York and does law school for a living in the hopes that he can retire to a nice condo on the moon.