Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watson, Facebook, and IP numbers

I go out of town for a couple of days and one of my favorite sources, the New York Times, publishes four articles relevant to this blog. Rather than wait until I have time to summarize and comment on each of them (which won't be soon), I'm going the cheap-and-easy way - three bullet points for four articles.
  • Watson, IBM's Jeopardy!-playing computer, gets two articles, both by John Markoff: A Fight to Win the Future: Computers vs. Humans (Feb. 14, 2011), a thoughtful, wide-ranging reflection on how Watson's language facility might (and might not) change economies and cultures; and Computer Wins on 'Jeopardy!;" Trivial, it's Not (Feb. 16) is more narrowly focused on describing Watson's performance on the TV show.
  • Facebook Officials Keep Quiet on Its Role in Revolts by Jennifer Preston (Feb. 14) highlights the critical role Facebook and other technologies have played in the recent (and ongoing) uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere. Facebook and Twitter, at least, take the stand that they are providers of social and communication services, not king-makers (the only safe stand they can take, of course).
  • I suppose it calls my nerd credentials into question that I didn't know that we were running out of IP numbers until I read Drumming Up More Addresses on the Internet by Laurie J. Flynn (Feb. 14). The 4.3 billion numbers that were created in 1977 are almost all used up; but a fix, IPv6, is in the bag, but like Y2K, there are a lot of entities that need to be fixed individually. Some people scoff at the Y2K problem - "The world didn't end!" - but only because they don't realize that the problems were averted by thousands of people working hard to make it a triumph rather than a disaster. Let's hope we do as well with this transition.
Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

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