Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Watson

IBM’s new toy was all over the news last week as it handily defeated two all-time winners on Alex Trebek’s Jeopardy. While I have never been a great fan of Jeopardy, I certainly respect the fact that it has almost universal appeal (it has been running, in one fashion or another, on one continent or another since its inception by Merv Griffin in 1964). My contact is peripheral. It follows the 6:30 PM PST News that my wife watches, so the familiar song is always my clue that supper will be ready soon.

One of our favorite authors, Linda Fairstein, incorporates a contest for the Final Question into the lives of her fictional Police and District Attorney characters, and I am currently listening to the audio version of a recent book, “Legal Legacy” http://lindafairstein.com/ . I find it interesting how she uses the Jeopardy questions to develop the distinct personalities of her characters and make them more real and believable. Will have to remember that when I start writing fiction.

Two points about the contest interested me greatly. The first, triggered by a Forbes article by Mark P. Mills, http://blogs.forbes.com/ was interesting because he claims this competition marks the third evolution of computing, following on the first, silicon technology and the second, desktop interconnectivity. He contends this technology, using The Cloud, will move computing and our lives closer to what is sometimes called “artificial intelligence.”

The second is harder to define. Earlier than the start of Jeopardy, my sister had a favorite vinyl record that she practically wore out when she was in high school. The record was “Manhattan Towers” by Gordon Jenkins, and was a terribly romantic story set to music about living in New York. The record won Jenkins the Keys to NYC, no mean feat, and was triggered in my mind by a visit Mary and I made to NYC and a consequent visit with our young niece, who has lived there now for almost ten years. We started talking about why people are attracted to really big cities and which ones have a unique identity. That started me remembering about the record, which I had not thought about for sixty years!

So I started on a quest to find out what record it was and who had performed it. In today’s world, finding that information was remarkably easy and I soon ordered it from Amazon.com, in the DVD format, since vinyl was much more expensive. What really amazed me is that when it came, and when I played it, a track called “The Party” came on. I had not thought about this record for sixty years, as best I know, had not talked about it, certainly had not heard it, but when I was listening to this track I said to my wife, “In a moment we will meet Noah.” Sure enough, as I am hearing the notes in my mind as well as through the speakers, we worked our way through to the point where I simultaneously with the narrator, said, “And a wonderful waiter named Noah.”

I was dumbfounded! How had my brain reconstructed that phrase, that narrative, when I sometimes cannot remember where my car keys are? Bring on Watson!

I asked my wife if she had ever had a similar experience, but in her case, as I had thought, in mine, she could remember stories from long ago, if they were reinforced by interim telling, but had no similar experience with a sudden flashback.

I wonder if any of you have had a similar experience?

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