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Robobrain vs. humanity: Discuss

On Friday, Reporters' Roundtable welcomes two experts to discuss the differences between human brains and their silicon simulations.

Author Stephen Baker covered the creation of the 'Jeopardy'-playing Watson computer.

On Friday, the Reporters' Roundtable podcast tackles a simple question: what is unique about the human mind? As I write this, IBM's Watson project is doing a respectable job on the game show "Jeopardy." With one game out of three played, the machine is tied against human champion Brad Rutter. Does that mean Watson is as smart as Rutter?

Watch this episode of Reporters' Roundtable live on Friday at noon Pacific time, on CNET Live, at

At "Jeopardy," maybe. Or maybe Watson is just a cleverly programmed, pattern-matching supercomputer with an unfair data storage architecture advantage. Certainly, Watson would never be able to hold its own at a dinner table conversation with humans.

Or would it? Even back in 2008, a computer nearly convinced a panel of judges that it was more human than the flesh-and-blood people it was competing against in the annual Turing Test shootout called the Loebner Prize. And that was just a battle of wits: human versus machine, each chatting in turns over a terminal connection with human judges.

Are we really so shallow that we can be imitated by machines? What is really different about the software or the hardware in our heads? On Friday's Reporters' Roundtable, we're going to tackle these and related questions with two great guests who have both written extensively about these issues.

Brian Christian managed to convince a panel of judges that he was not a bot, at the 2009 Loebner Prize competition.

Stephen Baker is author of "Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything." Baker reported on the development of Watson from inside IBM headquarters to write this book. Previously, he spent 10 years as BusinessWeek's senior technology writer. See his blog, Final Jeopardy.

Brian Christian is author of "The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive" and also of the recent Atlantic cover story Mind vs. Machine, which is a great primer for this topic.

Don't miss this show. It's going to get deep.

Got discussion points you'd like us to tackle? Put them in the comments below or e-mail your thoughts to Then be sure to tune in to the live show on CNET Live on Friday at noon PT. To create an e-mail reminder for yourself for 11:55 a.m. Friday, click here (courtesy Nudgemail; for more info, read our review). If you can't watch live, the show will be on iTunes and in the Reporters' Roundtable blog shortly afterward.