Webby Awards take note: People are people, computers are machines

The people behind the Webby Awards probably thought it was cool to give the Person Of The Year Award to Watson, the IBM computer that beat the world's best 'Jeopardy' players on TV earlier in the year. They could also be forgiven for thinking Watson was a more interesting recipient than some of

The people behind the Webby Awards probably thought it was cool to give the Person Of The Year Award to Watson, the IBM computer that beat the world's best 'Jeopardy' players on TV earlier in the year.

They could also be forgiven for thinking Watson was a more interesting recipient than some of the people in the IT industry that might have been candidates for Person Of The Year in 2011. And I bet none of them would have beaten the world's best 'Jeopardy' players although, as is usual with things that are US-centric (like American Football or Baseball), I have a nagging suspicion that 'world's best' in this case means 'best in the US'.

Whatever the reasoning, there is a wee problem with this award. I hate to be pedantic but a computer is not a person. Not now and never will be. It may well be that in the future we can have a separate category for Computer Of The Year but giving a Person Of The Year award to a computer, however bright it might be, is a bit like giving a Firefighter Of The Year award to a Fire Engine.
This was first published in June 2011

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