A huge win for artificial intelligence … but what does it mean for humans?

Working on computer evolution “really makes you appreciate the fact that humans are such unique things, and they think such unique ways,” Massey said.

Nyberg said it is silly to think that Watson will lead to an end or a lessening of humanity. “Watson does just one task: answer questions,” he said. And it gets things wrong, such as saying grasshoppers eat kosher, which Nyberg said is why humans won’t turn over launch codes to it or its computer cousins.

Take Final Jeopardy on Feb. 15, which Watson flubbed and its human competitors handled with ease. The category was U.S. cities, and the clue was: “Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest, for a World War II battle.”

The correct response was Chicago, but Watson weirdly wrote, “What is Toronto?????”

A human would have considered Toronto and discarded it because it is a Canadian city, not a U.S. one, but that’s not the type of comparative knowledge Watson has, Nyberg said.

“A human working with Watson can get a better answer,” said James Hendler, a professor of computer and cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Using what humans are good at and what Watson is good at, together we can build systems that solve problems that neither of us can solve alone.”

Laura Ascione