There has been much to do lately about Watson’s Jeopardy! victory over a couple of really smart humans. For those who have been … well … hiking in Greenland or something, Watson is an artificial intelligence program that was designed to bridge the gap between data retrieval programs like Google and the life-like C-3PO (or maybe HAL 9000?!). And when put to the test, Watson wiped the floor with his meat-bag competition. The robot revolution is born.
For many of us, however, the rise of the robots may not be such a bad thing. During the double jeopardy round, the competitors were given the clue: “This two-word phrase means the power to take private property for public use as long as there is just compensation.” Watson’s response: “What is eminent domain?”
Watson’s answer was brilliant in its simplicity. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” If it wasn’t for Watson’s brain (supercharged with 16 terabytes of RAM and powered by 90 servers each with 3.5 Ghz processors), he may have missed that elusive phrase “for public use” and found himself trapped in the same feedback loop that has been plaguing even the brightest of human minds … ahem … Kelo v. City of New London.
If Watson is a sign of things to come, it seems that the looming robot revolution may return us to the text of the Constitution and curb eminent domain abuse. And I, for one, welcome that revolution.