Welcome to The Atlantic's liveblog of the epic match between man and machine that is Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter vs. IBM's Watson computer. The battleground is the game of Jeopardy!, which Jennings dominated for more than 70 days in 2004, launching him to international fame. The very talented Michelle Legro will be taking over the controls in the hour leading up to the 7 p.m. match.
7:25: What have we learned tonight Trebek? "Watson is very bright, very fast, but he has some weird little moments..." Tomorrow is double Jeopardy and Wednesday is the final. Phew! My typing fingers are burning here, this event really needs to be a full hour. The speed of Jeopardy is fully realized on this episode, no hemming and hawing, no pauses. But surprisingly, there were some wrong answers, in fact, were the most wrong answers from Watson? I counted three in all. Here's a question: are the engineers allowed to go in and tweak Watson over the next few days?
7:20: Watson doesn't appear to be getting any of these decades questions correct...Man is really coming back here in the second half. Watson really does like the Beatles though. He's tied for the lead with...Brad? What's happening Ken? Brad wants to be an actor for heaven's sake.
7:18: A montage about training Watson is surprisingly heartfelt. It's so nice to see the engineers rooting for him, even when he was flailing.
7:12: Who is Voldemort, Watson! Can't you name evil?
7:10: Oh, Watson's got the Daily Double! He's wagering $1,000...and he's got it right. Ken gets a question correct about the 50s. I'm always going to wonder why Watson isn't able to get certain questions right. Was the clue too abstract?
7:05: Jonah Lehrer made a good point on Twitter this morning, questioning how much energy it takes to drive Watson. The human brain takes only 12 watts.
Interesting, Watson receives the clues as a text file, is not connected to the internet, and rings in by pushing a button.
When Watson is happy and winning, he turns green. When he's wrong (oh god what will happen if he is wrong!) he turns red. Watson needs to have an optimal amount of "confidence" to buzz in.
7:00:Speaking of Hail to the IBM, away we go! Today's game is taking place at an IBM facility outside of New York City. Mmmm...secret facility. Look! Watson is saying hello! Trebek is telling us that Watson is an avatar. A monolithic avatar. Trebek is telling us that Watsons servers are equivalent to 2,800 computers and can process up to 15 trillion bytes.
6:55: Thomas Watson Sr., the president of IBM for whom Watson was named, was big into company loyalty (man must be loyal to machines, but will machines be loyal to man?) and he was a supporter of the company musical, songs like "Hail to the IBM" which can be heard here.
6:45: Hello everyone! I'm catching up on my reading while waiting for the ultimate battle to commence with Daniel D'Addario's recent Slate piece on J-Archive. What are the most likely categories to pop up tonight? Is there any category in which Watson might falter, i.e. "Feelings Humans Feel?"
The U.S. must establish policies that can protect its electoral system and respond to foreign actors in real-time.
Few people in Washington now doubt that Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. As more information about the response to that interference has been publicly disclosed, it’s become clear that key decisions were made by good people trying to do the right thing for the right reasons that nevertheless led to bad outcomes. The accounts of former FBI Director James Comey and of other government officials indicate that, in the run up to the election, their choices were influenced by the fear of appearing political—even as their actions inadvertently may have created exactly that impression.
Make no mistake—Russia will attack again. Yet right now, America hasn’t made any progress towards building a nonpartisan system that could respond to Russia—or any other foreign adversary. The United States has made no policy changes to ensure that if the exact same situation presented itself in next year’s congressional midterms or in the 2020 presidential election, its leaders wouldn’t face the same hard choices that Obama’s White House faced last summer.
Ten years later, smartphones have been fully domesticated.
There’s a paradox in technology. For something new to become widespread, familiar, and mass-market, it must create enough novelty and curiosity to draw people’s attention. But novelty alone is not enough to reach saturation. To permeate life, a technology must elicit more than novelty and curiosityin its users. It must become ordinary. It must recede into the background, where it continues to run but ceases to be noticed by the humans who made it pervasive.
This is the story of all successful technologies. The locomotive, airplane, and automobile. The electric light, the telephone, the washing machine, the personal computer. So humdrum are these once-revolutionary machines that no one gives them a second thought, unless they break down.
The show, this season, with exploitative plotlines that treat racism as entertainment, is becoming harder and harder to defend.
This post reveals minor plot points for The Bachelorette Season 13 Episode 6.
A few years ago, in response to a combination of scientific studies, legal cases, and human tragedies, commentators began to question the morality of watching American football. We’d always known the sport was an especially dangerous one to play—that, indeed, is part of its brute appeal—but now there was undeniable evidence of that brutality, rendered in statistic and awful anecdote. To watch the violence play out, it became increasingly clear, was to be in some way complicit in it—to cast asilent vote, not with one’s pocketbook but with one’s attention, in favor of all that violence continuing.
The Bachelorette, of course, depicts a sport only in the loosest sense; the show is very rarely violent in the literal sense of the term. And yet it has recently adopted the same rough outlines that football acquired a few years before: The show, always questionable, has become in its latest season more troubling than it has even been before. Recent episodes of the long-running ABC show have laid bare just how craven and exploitative its producers have become. Problems that have long been simmering in its world have come to a boil. Watching it has become harder and harder to enjoy—and, like that other blood sport, harder and harder to defend.
Washington's relationship with Seoul makes it a target for the Kim regime.
When South Korea’s President Moon Jae In greets President Donald Trump at the White House today, their warm smiles will do little to mask the fact that they meet at perhaps the most dangerous moment in the six-decade old U.S.-South Korean alliance. The failure of a quarter-century of diplomacy has left the North Korean dictatorship on the cusp of possessing a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. For the first time since 1953, when the United States committed to protecting the South from another invasion from the North, the American homeland will soon come under direct threat from one of the world’s most ruthless regimes.
Of course, the United States is at loggerheads with the Kim regime because of its commitment to the South—the alliance is not a symptom of today’s crisis between Washington and Pyongyang, but the cause. Not only does the United States station well over 20,000 troops on the Korean peninsula; the two militaries are well-integrated and jointly trained. The United States went so far as to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea until 1991, and continues to extend the so-called “nuclear umbrella” to protect the South. South Korea, in turn, provided the largest contingent of allied troops during the Vietnam War, and 3,000 of its troops fought in Iraq. South Korea also supported Obama-era initiatives such as the G20 and Nuclear Security Summits, and participates in the Proliferation Security Initiative, the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, making it a leader in anti-proliferation activities.
“Super-users” with complex medical needs make up a small fraction of U.S. patients, but they account for half of the nation’s overall health-care spending. Now, innovative efforts are providing better care at lower costs.
An oversized poster of the Seinfeld character Kramer watches over Phil Rizzuto’s daily routine. When Rizzuto, named for the famous New York Yankees shortstop, swallows his 6 a.m. pills, Kramer is looming over him, looking quizzical. Same for the 9 a.m., noon, 6 p.m., and midnight doses, each fistful of pills placed in a carefully labeled Dixie cup. “I live on medication,” he says.
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Rizzuto’s daily life in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a litany of challenges: His aides have to hoist his paralyzed legs from his bed to his motorized wheelchair and back again; keep the bag that collects his urine clean; tend to the gaping wound on his backside, which developed when he was left to lie still in bed too long; and help him avoid the panic that could claim anyone in his situation—that last one is particularly difficult since Rizzuto’s obsessive-compulsive disorder drives him to want to do everything for himself.
Fareed Zakaria argues that the core of Donald Trump’s message in 2016 was, “your life sucks—it's because of Mexicans, Chinese people, and Muslims.”
What’s behind the surge of populism that brought Donald Trump to power? For Fareed Zakaria, trends in technology and globalization are one important factor, insofar as they have created a disconnect between economic growth and jobs in the United States.
That isn’t, however, the whole story.
“There's an interesting puzzle,” he declared in a Wednesday lecture at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. “This is a wave of populism taking place around the world. This is not just the United States. We have to unpack that for a minute and ask ourselves where it is happening.”
The heart of populism used to be Latin America.
“If you went back 30 or 40 years and asked yourself where would you see the great populist regimes, they were all in Argentina and Bolivia and Brazil––that's really what defined modern populism,” he said. “Today, Latin America has almost no populism. Latin America is a place filled with pragmatic, reform-minded, Hillary Clinton-like policy wonks who are trying to integrate their economies into the globe.”
Early drafts of a canonical work show how Muslims' understanding of their faith has evolved.
“What does the Koran say about…?” is perhaps the most common question my students ask me in the Islamic history courses I teach. It’s an understandable question, but they will be disappointed with the answer if they hope it will explain how Islam has been interpreted and practiced for all of history.
In the post-enlightenment West, a society historically influenced by Protestantism’s “back-to-the-Bible” appeal, many of my students have grown up imbibing a public discourse obsessed with a religious or civil tradition’s origins and founding documents—the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Constitution—and by extension often assume that the only book of consequence for Muslims is the Koran. After 9/11, sales of the Koran skyrocketed. More recently, in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting, news outlets from Haaretz to Newsweek ran pieces asking “What Does the Koran Say about Being Gay?” And over the past month, as ISIS called for increased attacksduring Ramadan, the Koran was again scrutinized as the source of the violence.
A new study found that people who identify as Slytherins may be measurably different from the Hufflepuffs of the world.
I’m not particularly proud of this fact, but here it is: Pottermore, the Harry Potter-themed website unveiled by J.K. Rowling in 2012, has peered deep into my soul, evaluated its findings, and pronounced me a Hufflepuff.
Fans of the series will know why this is upsetting. For all the non-Harry Potter buffs reading this, though, here are three quick points of explanation. One: At Hogwarts, the wizards’ academy that serves as the backdrop for most of the series, students are sorted into one of four houses, each with its own distinctive character. Two: On Pottermore, fans can take a personality quiz to do the same. Three: Hufflepuff’s defining trait is “nice.” Its mascot is a badger. Its members, if Hogwarts were an American high-school cafeteria, would be the ones in the corner, frantically combing the trash for their retainers.
Monks take on the trolley problem, a classic moral dilemma that has big implications for driverless cars.
The Harvard psychologist Joshua Greene is an expert in “trolleyology,” the self-effacing way he describes his research into the manifold variations on the “trolley problem.” The basic form of this problem is simple: There’s a trolley barreling towards five people, who will die if they’re hit. But you could switch the trolley onto another track on which only a single person stands. Should you do it?
From this simple test of moral intuition, researchers like Greene have created an endless set of variations. By varying the conditions ever so slightly, the trolley problem can serve as an empirical probe of human minds and communities (though not everyone agrees).
For example, consider the footbridge variation: You’re standing on a footbridge above the trolley tracks with a very large person, who, if you push him or her, can stop the trolley from killing the five people. Though the number of lives saved is the same, it turns out that far more people would throw the switch than push the person.
Residents of an eccentric hub at the prestigious university must move out of the building after a yearlong turnaround process failed to achieve its aims.
The walls of Senior House, a dorm on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus, are not composed of lifeless, cream-colored cinder blocks. Instead, they ooze passion and raw emotion, providing a concrete canvas for residents’ renderings of cartoon characters, inspirational phrases, and internal dialogues. The murals reflect the community of students who knew Senior House not just as a place to sleep, but also as a place to call home.
But the dorm, which has been housing MIT students for the last century or so, is about to become a different kind of home—one, perhaps, where the murals will revert back to nondescript walls. Last year, MIT administrators released data showing just 60 percent of Senior House residents graduated in four years. Campus-wide, the four-year graduation rate is 84 percent. Illegal drug usage among residents was also cause for concern. “What this is all about is the safety of our students in the residential communities,” MIT Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart told me. “We have an obligation to provide students with a safe, healthy living environment and what we are up against right now is an unhealthy dorm culture that has crossed dangerous lines.”