I need to preface this piece by saying that I LOVE internet theories that originate deep in the bowels of Reddit, bubble to the mainstream surface and are bequeathed to us nose breathers via Matt Lauer and the Today Show crew. My favorite, in no particular order include the Berenstain Bears, The Shazaam Movie and the Jon Benet/Katy Perry theories.
These theories are tested prodded and given rectal examinations before being unleashed on the world. But not this guy. Halfway through his first spliff his Twitter fingers started spewing the first thing that came to his mind after thinking about Pizza Rolls for 7 minutes. He drops his theory of life and death on the world like a bomb on Nagasaki. (too soon?) …
That’s all well and good, but doesn’t stand a chance next to my theory about IBM Watson … most notably that it doesn’t actually exist. As in, it’s a big fucking sham. Because why shouldn’t the business world have conspiracy theories?
“But Tyler I’ve SEEN Watson.”
Well I’ve seen Charlie the Unicorn too but that doesn’t mean rhino horned equines are prancing around making every 5-year-old girls dreams come true. IBM can show me as many matte black server towers as they want, but I see right through their charade. Every James Bond, spy-movie ripoff with a Russian villain and a threat of global destruction has a set of these glorified lockers hanging around. And of course that means there is a bullpen of artisans skilled in the trade of fake, evil looking servers. I see right through you, IBM.
“Well, what about Jeopardy?”
I’m not doubting that IBM is a technology company, I’m just saying that IBM doesn’t possess this super computer named after a man most well known for “revolutionizing” punch card tabulating machines. Was the bingo card counting market already saturated? And its capacity is no different than my 6-year-old cousins LeapFrog LeapPad . Oh it can speak? I had Bonzi buddy in the 3rd grade. Oh it can answer questions quickly? Give me a DSL connection and a laptop and I could answer your Jeopardy questions quickly. (Yes, that’s .57 seconds.) Oh it beat Ken Jennings? If I had Google at my fingertips during my SATs I’d be at Harvard.
“But they sell its services.”
You know who else sold services? Charles Ponzi. And you know who else is good at analyzing data? Outsourced ITT Tech grads. With the amount of money they charge for access to Watson, about $500k for the top of the line “Champagne Room” package, they can pay a lot of third world computer nerds to find the cheapest hotel on the internet or consolidate your mental health records by hand.
“Well then why would they advertise it so much?”
And now we get to the actual conspiracy. Watson wasn’t dreamed up by hoodied, solder-gun toting MIT grads, but by ad men in mahogany board rooms somewhere on Madison Avenue. This is a PR stunt to end all PR stunts, but it’s got America hook, line and sinker. Why would IBM spend millions of dollars sponsoring SportsCenter and CNBC Infomercials? The power of perception, my friends. IBM instantly transforms from a company whose last innovation was that little red mouse button, to a technology powerhouse with 3rd-year design student graphics on their commercials.
The real problem is that there is NO way to disprove Watson. Want to go visit Watson? Sure you’ll see a computer, but it might be a repurposed Gateway that runs Oregon Trail 2 for all we know. And thats if IBM even lets you get into the bowels of their super-secret laboratory where men in white lab coats make the world a better place. And who is actually smart enough to figure out if Watson does what is says? That’s right, nobody.
Bravo, IBM. Bravo for pulling off the biggest “fake it til you make it” scheme of all time.
I am just waiting for IBM’s Fixer Upper moment when we find out this was all a sham and behind the facade of “Watson” is a call center with internet connection and Ask Jeeves …