Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Will Watson Become Predictably Irrational?

I was telling the folks here at Soundview that I spent three highly enjoyable evenings this week tuning in to watch Jeopardy: The IBM Challenge. In case you missed it, a team (or as it seemed from the credits, a legion) of IBM researchers set about the task of creating a computer with the ability to discern the subtleties of human language. I avoided using the words “hear” and “understand” because, as Alex Trebek pointed out in his characteristically acerbic manner, computers cannot hear. The result of the research is Watson, a room-sized computer with the ability to read Jeopardy clues and ascertain the correct response.

I have to admit, it was an impressive display. Despite the occasional misstep, such as providing the response “Toronto” to a Final Jeopardy clue about American cities, the machine crushed its opponents in a manner that would make Deep Blue turn red from embarrassment. The achievement netted $500,000 apiece for two worthy charities and a great deal of plaudits for IBM’s engineers. As people ponder where Watson will next apply its unique skill set, others continue to marvel at the machine’s ability to “think” like a human being.

Granted there are some levels of human thought which no machine would ever be able to replicate. Humans, at our core, excel at defying logic whenever possible. Author and Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics Dan Ariely points out that avoiding the logical path can have its benefits. Ariely is the author of The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. If you check out the Soundview Executive Book Summary of The Upside of Irrationality, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about decision-making processes that factor into our ability to succeed at work and achieve happiness at home.

While we continue to reflect in amazement on Watson’s big win, head over to Summary.com and get your copy of The Upside of Irrationality today! And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out CKC’s Executive Edge, a brand new executive skill-building online publication.

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