Last month, the nation was introduced to the world’s smartest computer: the IBM Watson. Watson is an example of the incredible strides made in artificial intelligence (A.I.). With four terabytes of storage capacity, including all of Wikipedia. Watson knows the answer to virtually any question, from Lady Macbeth to Lady Gaga.

Even more impressive than Watson’s depth of useless trivia is his … er… its ability to answer questions in a natural language.  Fittingly, Watson made his television debut on Jeopardy!, challenging the two most successful contestants in the show’s history, neither of whom were computers.

It was a grueling competition of man vs. machine, reminiscent of IBM’s Deep Blue vs. Grandmaster Garry Kasparov in chess. Watson was gracious in victory, never bragging or trying to fist bump his fans (which may have been in part due to his lack of fists). Watson easily trounced his two non-digital opponents.  In his Final Jeopardy answer, contestant Ken Jennings acknowledged the lopsided outcome, writing, “I welcome our new computer overlords.”

Watson’s celebrated victory quickly became the hot topic on all the cable news channels. Overnight the super computer has become a media super star.  The Washington Beltway Buzz is touting Watson as a possible GOP presidential candidate for 2012.  The reasons are many. Let’s start with the obvious: Watson is f—king brilliant.  As his performance on Jeopardy! proved, there is virtually no question to which Watson does not know the answer. Be it global warming, nuclear arms proliferation, or how to bake banana bread, Watson knows not “just the facts (ma’am),” but ALL the facts.  And Watson’s nanosecond recall of zillions of factoids would crush any competitor in a debate.

As brilliant as Watson is, his depth of knowledge is not perfect. He did actually get one question wrong on Jeopardy! In the category of U.S. Cities, the answer was: Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero; its second largest for a Word War II battle. Watson wrongly guessed “What is Toronto?” when of course the correct answer was “What is Sydney?” (In all fairness, Watson’s Toronto answer, while wrong, was a giant leap forward over the 2009 version of Watson, which when confronted with the very same question came up with “What is a stun gun, Alex?”)

As Republicans vet Watson, they are probing into earlier iterations of Watson for any hint of scandal.  Experts assure the GOP that there is 99.9% chance that Watson could never be caught up in a sex scandal, stating “While his voice may be alluring, he has the warmth of a steel drum.” So far, his history appears almost squeaky clean. Almost.  Watson was in fact caught on tape grunting suggestively.  His programmers insist that Watson was merely reciting the entire dialogue of the adult film, Deep Throat. RNC Chairman  Reince Priebus  came to Watson’s defense in an official statement, chiding  critics by asking: “Who among us does not have some minor embarrassing sexual indiscretion in our past, involving sex tapes of ourselves making inappropriate advances towards a congressional page or a farm animal?”

Then there is Watson’s amazing command of the English language. Using the latest state of the art advancements in A.I., Watson can even crack jokes. While emceeing a Republican fundraiser, Watson quipped, “Why did President Obama cross the road? Because he had to get to a Congressional committee meeting with the Council on Foreign Relations, which was taking place on the other side of the road.” Democrats found it so funny that they have offered to cover the cost for Watson to emcee ALL future GOP fundraisers.

With his universal language software program, Watson can speak 128 languages – sure to come in handy when meeting with foreign heads of state to explain why we bombed their embassies.  There are of course some obvious drawbacks which concern Republican strategists  – such as how will Watson be able to kiss snowballs and throw babies out on the campaign trail, given his lack of extremities. But they are confident that within the next 12 months, the next generation of Watson will have overcome these limitations. A prototype left hand in the thumbs-up position has already been tested and appears promising, despite a recent malfunction in which his hand accidentally flashed the middle finger instead to the 3rd grade class of Jackson Bluff Elementary School in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

While Watson has quickly emerged as a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential race, there is another gorilla  in the room: Sarah Palin.  Palin leads Watson by a wide margin in  name recognition.  And her wholesome good looks and haut couture fashion sense – two important credentials for earning the right to sit in the oval office – will be hard for Watson to match.

Thanks to incriminating photos I have of House Speaker John Boehner, this reporter has obtained exclusive access to a private debate prep session in which GOP strategists pitted Palin against Watson in a mock presidential debate. The candidates’ responses showed pronounced differences in approaches to the confronting the nation’s problems.

So who won this mock presidential debate? That’s the focus of next week’s post. The results may surprise you.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

You can read Part II of this post here: Watson vs. Palin in Mock Presidential Debate – Who will win?

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011

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