Dr. James Hendler, Professor and Computer Science Department Head, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
By Dr. James Hendler
Every single student in the Department of Computer Science here at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has the potential to revolutionize computing. But with the arrival of Watson at Rensselaer, they’re even better positioned to do so.
Watson has caused the researchers in my field of artificial intelligence (AI) to rethink some of our basic assumptions. Watson’s cognitive computing is a breakthrough technology, and it’s really amazing to be here at Rensselaer, where we will be the first university to get our hands on this amazing system.
With 90 percent of the world’s data generated in the past two years, the ability for people and even traditional computing systems to make sense of this data has grown complex. The addition of Watson to our campus is very timely considering the growth of what some have termed “Big Data.”
In 1976, Joseph Weizenbaum, a leading computer scientist, wrote a book called Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgement to Calculation, in which he criticized the field of AI for trying to replace human creativity and thought with the power of computers. He suggested that humans and computers were inherently different, and that trying to get computers to think like humans was an insurmountable task, if it was possible at all.