Magical Computers

Arthur C. Clarke once said that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." (For those who can't follow its construction, of course.) This explains a lot of the belief in Artificial Intelligence. This magical thinking regarding a piece of technology is on full display in the television show Criminal Minds, where the "search wizard," Garcia, can, with about 10 keystrokes, pull absolutely any combination of pieces of information out of her magical computer. ("Garcia, get me the names of all people released from prison in the last month who are on psychiatric drugs and subscribe to HBO."*)

I just saw on episode in which Garcia was asked to find the location of the mobile phone of the "best friend" of an FBI agent's missing niece. That's all the computer needed: "Find the location of Meghan's best friend's cell phone." About 3 seconds later, a little dot was blinking on a map.

You see, because they can think, and are smarter than us, and know what we want. Magically.

* Of course such a query, given access to law enforcement, pharmaceutical, and cable company databases, is fully possible. But it would probably take days if not weeks of programming to figure out all the complications of joining the differently formatted data in all of these data stores. Not two seconds.


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