The Future of Librarians?


Here’s a fascinating article circulating around cyberspace.

New York Times
By Clive Thompson, June 14, 2010

“For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords. Software firms and university scientists have produced question-answering systems for years, but these have mostly been limited to simply phrased questions. Nobody ever tackled “Jeopardy!” because experts assumed that even for the latest artificial intelligence, the game was simply too hard: the clues are too puzzling and allusive, and the breadth of trivia is too wide. With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem – ….”

Read the full article and think about it.

What do you think about the future of librarians in general in the next 10 years?
Will this only impact reference librarians? Why?
Will this impact libraries in general? How?

NOT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS. Please provide your comments.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Future of Librarians?

  1. Cheryl Mansen

    “It is difficult to answer if you don’t understand the question.” Sarek.

    What “Watson” hasn’t done is the hard part of reference… getting to what the patron wants. As most of us know it is generally more difficult to get to the patron’s real information need than it is to find the answer.

    Perhaps this may be a tool librarians use once the information need is determined.

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