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I'm not ready to give up yet

In a couple of months a book entitled Science Fiction and Computing, edited by David Ferro and Eric Swedin will appear. I contribute an essay about the relationship between Artificial Intelligence research and AI's portrayal in science fiction, especially "HAL" in the Kubrick film 2001: a Space Odyssey. In my paper I argue that the reality of AI has lagged way behind what the Sci Fi writers have projected. In other words, HAL was supposed to have been here a long time ago, but where is he? Then came this week's Jeopardy, in which IBM's "Watson" appeared to roll over its human opponents.  So is my essay all wrong? I don't think so. Watson may not be as intelligent as he seems. You'll have to read my essay when it appears. In the meantime, have a look at this photo, taken many years ago. I am standing in front of the "Big Bend Tunnel," drilled through the rock in the 1870s for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad near Talcott, West Virginia. The legend says that John Henry, a "steel drivin' man," won a contest drilling the tunnel, against a steam drill. But the exertion was too much for him, and he collapsed and died.  Those human contestants on Jeopardy did not look too happy--but at least they're still alive. I still think the computers have a long way to go.

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