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Computers Byte

Computers Byte

Author: Reilly Capps/Tuesday, September 2, 2014/Categories: humor

[IBM's Watson is waaaay smarter than you, even if you're taking Adderall. Photo by Clockready.]

If computers and machines are good at anything, they are good at building cars, good at delivering porn, and good at everything else. 

That's the premise of this video, which we are posting just after Labor Day. Yesterday, you may have felt optimistically pro-union, pro-human, pro-proletariat. You may have watched President Obama lobby for a hike in the minimum wage. More likely, you got drunk and tried to light your farts. But, when you watch this video, whatever pro-worker enthusiasm you felt yesterday will be wiped away quicker than a sandcastle in Hurricane Sandy. 

The machines are already taking over. And you know who's to blame? Bill Gates, the most successful computer software engineer of all time. We should persecute him on trumped-up charges about his personal life until he self-destructs. We could try to do that to the inventor of the computer, Alan Turing, but the British government beat us to the punch. 

But you know who else is to blame? You are! Every time you search Epicurious for a recipe instead of cooking the oily, unhealthy recipe your mom made, the machines have won. Every time you watch a computer-generated hentai video instead of watching an amateur sex tape, the machines have won. Every time you play a video game instead of going outside ... game, set, match, machines. 

Not me, though. I am not like you slack-jawed cyborgs. I refuse to get Internet on my phone, because I have some weird idea that not checking Twitter during the fourteen minutes a day when my phone is offline makes me Henry Freaking Thoreau. And so, driving, I have to navigate the city from memory, from intuition -- from my gut. 

Thankfully, I believe my gut is a kind of genius. 

I live outside Denver, and I am a fourth generation Denver/Boulderite, and I pride myself on knowing my state. It's such a new state, full of so many in-migrants, that deep local knowledge is a rare thing. That alley behind the Wendy's that allows you to go from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue -- which seems impossible! -- I know about that alley! The parking spots on Pennsylvania Ave. that no one else seems to know about because they're hidden around a corner -- I got those covered! I am a svengali of shortcuts, a Carnac of car routes, a seer of short-term parking. Without these strengths, what am I? Just another chump in a Peyton Manning jersey. 

And yet, and yet, and yet! How does even the longest personal memory compare with the infinite memory space of a computer? Not great. 

Whenever I'm in the car with a person who does have the Internet on their phone -- meaning, whenever I'm in the car with another human -- it's the nearest I will come to a kind of John Henry challenge. 

(Just in case you think I'm talking about the owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Globe, I'm talking about John Henry, the steel-driving man. He thought he could hammer steel into rock better than a mechanical hammer. He could -- though he died from the effort. Also, if the contest had happened a few years later, when machines were just a little stronger, he couldn't have won, not even close. Machines today make John Henry look like a giant puussay.) 

In my nebbishy, urban version of the John Henry challenge, I am always trying to out-map Google Maps. Google Maps will suggest a route, and I -- as possessor of a genius gut -- will suggest an alternate route, often one I have taken dozens of times. The driver of the car usually follows my instructions. (In Colorado, I can start any sentence with "As a fourth-generation Coloradan..." and usually get my way, even if my way is ridiculous.) And do you know what life-affirming, triumph-of-the-human-spirit event happens next? Exactly. We hit road construction that delays us for two hours. 

This is because Google Maps can know about construction -- and accidents and floods and sporting events letting out -- that I can't. As the above video makes clear, there are few things that computers can't do better than us -- or won't be able to do better than us, very soon. Does that include writing blogs? Maybe. It seems that many videos are already computer-generated, and many of them get more hits than my videos. 

The world is crazy. At Fermilab, they're using lasers to test the popular stoner hypothesis that the universe is really just a hologram, possibly made by a computer. And if we don't live in a computer-generated hologram, you can bet we soon will. Hopefully they'll need one or two workers to maintain the servers. 

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