While at AALL, I watched Kyla Moran present on IBM's Watson. One thing struck me: the big difference between intelligence augmentation (IA) and artificial intelligence (AI). Kyla likened it to Ironman's JARVIS v. Terminator.
It's a long-running "joke" of sorts within the librarian profession that "they've" been predicting our demise in favor of artificial intelligence for at least 30 years. And it's gotten louder recently with books like Rise of the Robots.
Kyla commented that Watson is augmented intelligence. He makes us smarter. And IBM is not trying to overtake humans with machines.
According to Wikipedia:
Intelligence amplification (IA) (also referred to as cognitive augmentation and machine augmented intelligence) refers to the effective use of information technology in augmenting human intelligence. The idea was first proposed in the 1950s and 1960s by cybernetics and early computer pioneers.
IA is sometimes contrasted with AI (Artificial Intelligence), that is, the project of building a human-like intelligence in the form of an autonomous technological system such as a computer or robot. AI has encountered many fundamental obstacles, practical as well as theoretical, which for IA seem moot, as it needs technology merely as an extra support for an autonomous intelligence that has already proven to function.
Augmented intelligence will be our reality in the near future. We will use computers to aid us in our capability to retrieve relevant results in the age of big data.
The ethics are thorny in this area, and although IBM says that it doesn't want to replace humans, it's not inherent that other entities will be so ethical. That said, we won't be in a position anytime soon to be completely replaced by computers, and it's important for the public to understand where computing power stands now and why librarians are still needed. If the public perception is that library's are not needed, then budgets will be slashed. But if the public understands the need for libraries and librarians, we will continue to be supported and offer our invaluable services.