Rain Man, Watson and The Cloud – What Constitutes Consciousness and Being?

Raymond (played by Dustin Hoffman): “Gotta get my boxer shorts at K-Mart.”

Charlie (His brother played by Tom Cruise): [pulls over and gets out of the car] “I’m going out of my mind! Outta my mind! WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE WHERE YOU BUY UNDERWEAR?! WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?! UNDERWEAR IS UNDERWEAR! IT IS UNDERWEAR WHEREVER YOU BUY IT! IN CINCINNATI OR WHEREVER!”

Raymond (An autistic megasavant): “K-Mart.”

Charlie: (Questioning his brother’s reality and his own ulterior motives.) “You know what I think, Ray? I think this autism is a bunch of shit! Because you can’t tell me that you’re not in there somewhere!”

Raymond: “Boxer shorts. K-Mart.”

This quotation is from the 1988 movie “Rain Man” starring Tom Cruise as “Charlie” and Dustin Hoffman as the ‘affected’ brother “Raymond.” It won 4 Oscars, Best Picture, Best Original Screen Play, Best Director, Best Actor and best all-around flick for those self-described as “normal.” It succeeded in raising the awareness of autism and savant syndrome in a humanistic way that has since been carried on for the last 25 years. But for now, setting all that aside, including revealing the incredible life of Kim Peek for whom Rain Man is depicted – let’s shift to the work that is being done on exceptional artificial intelligence by IBM.

Advanced Super Computers

IBM’s “Watson” super computer is best known as the worthy, but computational opponent on TV’s Jeopardy 2011 against 74-time winner Ken Jennings and former achiever Brad Rutter. Watson won the “man versus machine” challenge and donated the $1 Million prize to charity.

While Watson was specifically developed to play Jeopardy, a game featuring an answer looking for a query, it meanwhile, had access to 200 million pages of ‘structured and unstructured’ content from the Internet that consumed four terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia. But the machine was not connected to the Internet during the game. Watson won on its own merits without predilection or outside intervention. Remarkable!

A New Home

IBM has since announced on the 11th of January 2014 that it was investing $1 billion to give Watson a downtown New York home from its former location in Armonk, N.Y. and a full-on marketing makeover. Seems bragging rights over a couple Jeopardy pros isn’t enough for this super computer.

In addition the company has reprogrammed Watson from a self-contained system to a cloud-based service and augmented the programming to address other vital applications. It’s massive data-crunching capabilities are being offered to industries ranging from health care, currently consulting on lung cancer treatments at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, to data intensive services for investment banking companies.

Why It’s Important

What makes Watson important on the ‘info-continuum linage’ is its ability

  • To learn,
  • Adjust,
  • Apply and
  • Augment the demands required of it.

Watson is the farthest step along the advancement toward artificial intelligence there is. And to date, it is a beneficial one. Beating Ken Jennings for $1 million may be an important prize to you and me, but when Watson is queried, “What is the best genomic-specific treatment for this cancer patient?, The response is beyond monetary value for those undergoing care and the families affected by the insight.

For computer geeks: Watson incredibly is still a lineal type device in the realm of current computer science programming. And yet we are on the threshold of 3D and quantum computational advancements! Watson is just a hint of the future awaiting us.

Is Watson Conscious?

The questions one ultimately must draw are where does human consciousness begin and artificial intelligence end? Or vice versa? Where is the frontier, the border line, the synapse? Where and how does it derive? What is the difference between the super intelligent machine, the cognizant being, the savant and the insane? Or… are our treasured personas just an extension of someone or something’s imagination? A Matrix movie scenario.

And when is common sense, just too damn common?

For Further Discussion Go Here!…

This format limits the length of articles and perhaps the attention span it deserves. If this is a subject of interest, as it for me, there is a continuing discussion taking place about consciousness, the Cloud, artificial intelligence, savants and our role as humans in this vast universe. To view additional videos and links about savant syndrome and the life of Kim Peek (11 Nov 1951 – 19 Dec 2009) among others search YouTube. It is most inspiring and well worth it “Or Here”.

Meanwhile, I’m headed to K-Mart for some boxer shorts!


Article by David Skinner

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