Speaking for humanity, I am disturbed about "Deep Blue."
As you know if you read the newspapers, "Deep Blue" is a 1972 movie about a woman with an amazing ability to . . .
Whoops! My mistake! I meant to say that "Deep Blue" is an IBM computer that recently defeated the world heavyweight chess champion, Garry "Lobes of Steel" Kasparov, causing serious chess fans everywhere to pick angrily at the tape holding their eyeglasses together.
It wasn't just that Kasparov lost; it was the pathetic way he lost. In a May 13 New York Times article, chess expert Robert Byrne claimed that Kasparov made a "fatal error" that "everyone knows how to avoid," thus putting himself in an impossible predicament. Here's a verbatim quote from Byrne's analysis:
"Kasparov has nowhere to hide. If . . . bc, then 20 Qc4 Kb7 falls into 21 Qa6 mate. If 19 . . . Nb4, then 20 Qf5 bc 21 Ne5 Bb5 22 Ng6."
Can you believe that? Garry, you knucklehead!
This was the first time that a computer had beaten a world chess champion, and it was a severe blow to human pride, especially when Deep Blue -- after telling the media that it was going to Disney World -- was seen instead at a trendy Manhattan nightclub, drinking 400 million glasses of champagne per second, fondling the cash registers, boasting loudly of its victory and making insensitive remarks about Tiger Woods.
The question is: Does Deep Blue's victory mean that computers have now reached the level of human intelligence? And what, exactly, do we mean by "human intelligence?" Can we say that the beeping supermarket computer that recognizes and totals our purchases as they slide across the scanner is displaying "human intelligence?" Of course not! The supermarket computer is WAY more intelligent than humans, because it knows how to add, a skill that most humans have totally forgotten by the time they get to the Senior Prom. Also you will never see a supermarket computer purchasing, or eating, "jerky."
So we have to concede that in some areas, computers are smarter than humans. But there is still hope for us; there is one area where even the most powerful computers so far have been unable to compete with the human brain, and it happens to be an area that is vital to the very survival of the planet: humor writing.
Oh, the computer industry has tried to "muscle into" this field. In 1987, IBM assigned a team of its top nerds to a 10-year, multibillion-dollar project to develop a world-class humor computer, code-named "Big Yuk." But this task proved to be very difficult, because computers, like Martha Stewart and fans of Barry Manilow, do not naturally have a sense of humor. Technicians spent thousands of hours programming Big Yuk -- typing in a complete transcript of every episode of "F Troop," putting Groucho glasses on it, giving it noogies, installing a mechanical arm so it could throw pies, etc. -- but progress was very slow. And then, finally, the breakthrough came: Early on the historic morning of Oct. 8, 1993, after six years of processing data 24 hours a day, Big Yuk came to life and, in an exchange with a programmer, made what is believed to be the first-ever totally computer-generated joke:
Big Yuk: KNOCK KNOCK.
Programmer (typing excitedly): WHO'S THERE?
Big Yuk: MARCEL PROUST
Programmer: MARCEL PROUST WHO?
Big Yuk: MARCEL PROUST THE FRENCH NOVELIST (1871-1922) WHO WROTE THE 16-VOLUME CYCLIC NOVEL "THE REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST."
Big Yuk: GET IT?
It wasn't much, but it was a start. The next breakthrough came nearly two years later, when Big Yuk suddenly asked: "WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MADONNA AND A LAWN TRACTOR?"
Rushing to the keyboard, the programmer typed in: "I GIVE UP! WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?"
To which Big Yuk responded: "MARCEL PROUST THE FRENCH NOVELIST (1871-1922) WHO WROTE THE 16-VOLUME CYCLIC NOVEL `THE REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST.' "
So we can see that computers have a long way to go before they can replace highly trained humor professionals. Oh, sure, I know there have been rumors that some of us in the humor industry are getting lazy and starting to supplement our own output with computer-generated material. I want to state, for the record, that these rumors are totally false. I write all my own jokes with no help from any machine, despite my heavy travel schedule. In fact, I JUST FLEW IN THE FROM THE COAST (PAUSE), AND MAN, IT WAS A DISTANCE OF 2,873.9 MILES!