The best things about the human brains is that they are reproduced by millions every year by a simple human reproduction chain. For a Watson to be able to reproduce another Watson may still take some centuries. Another unique feature of the human brain is that it evolves by itself and can master any art, science , culture, technology if it is brought up in that surrounding. The programming and learning process is automatic. It is just no match to that Watson machine.
Not long ago I saw a film about 5 Russian soldgers pushing a 50 ton tank uphill (during WWII) because they had to - it was a matter of life or death. Nowadays more than 50 people tried to push the same weight at the same site and they failed.Coming to my point: emotions, feelings, what are they made of? -hormones flowing in the blood, brain waves...or...?? This is the second huge enigma: the interaction between the emotional and logical Homo Sapiens. Happy Watson feeling nothing. Still I don't envie you...
When I was six years old, my mother could hand me some money and tell me to get a quart of milk. Just think of how much human effort would be required to program a robot for this simple task. I learned by following my mother around. I knew that milk was food, that it would be in a refrigerator at a grocery store, where a grocery store was, how to walk there and back, how to purchase it, to put the milk into the refrigerator at home and to hand my mother the change. I could even bring back the right type of milk because I knew what type was usually in the refrigerator at home.
Interesting that no one in this forum mentioned the notion of consciousness. That’s the big enigma – consciousness. And the ultimate question is: could a machine be ever conscious? Don’t try to hastily answer this question. Please first read about consciousness. There are so many scientists involved in the research of this topic. It’s not clear if we’ll ever be able to figure out how it emerges (from the brain?) – for me understanding and seeing clearly in my mind “what is” consciousness is like trying to see what is in the center of a black hole or in the atom-sized big bang in the first nanoseconds after the bang…Bravo, bravissimo to the IBM team for their Watson. These guys are real talents. Still the chasm between Watson and human consciousness remains as profound and dark as it has been since time immemorial.
Nice writing. :-)
Agree w/you about "modern synthesis". It's crap, mostly. You might be (very) interested in a recent article by Woese and Goldenfeld (leading and major names in bio and phys, resp.) titled "Life is Physics" and constructive suggestions to finally, please, overturn the creaking death-rattle modern synthesis.
If you find even that too mainstream, I'd suggest Stephen Talbott's excellent technical series on all this over at netfuture.org