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The IBM computer Watson wasn't perfect on Jeopardy this week, but it was good enough to defeat two champion human beings. What's new and different about Watson? Can artificial intelligence really cope with complex reality? Also, crackdowns continue on anti-government protesters in the Middle East. On Reporter's Notebook, Wisconsin has become a national battleground between Republican governors and public employees, backed by President Obama.  Will the battle spread to other states?

Banner image: Contestant Ken Jennings competes against "Watson" at a press conference to discuss the upcoming Man v. Machine Jeopardy! competition at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, New York. Photo: Ben Hider/Getty Images

Making News Egypt Marks Week without Mubarak, Other Governments Crackdown 7 MIN, 47 SEC

In the Middle East today crackdowns continued on anti-government protesters. In Egypt, where People Power deposed a president, another enormous crowd turned out for Friday prayers on Tahrir Square.  The message was that the revolution is not over.  Dan Murphy is in Cairo for the Christian Science Monitor.

Dan Murphy, Staff Writer, Christian Science Monitor

Main Topic Are Computers Learning to Think? 36 MIN, 2 SEC

In 1997, IBM's "Deep Blue" computer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. This week, "Watson" defeated two champion humans on Jeopardy. Because Watson answered some tricky questions, IBM says the machine has "the ability to understand natural human language." Watson isn't available on your laptop — yet.  It's a supercomputer the size of 10 refrigerators, programmed by 25 IBM scientists with the equivalent of one million books, including entire encyclopedias. It performs 80 trillion operations per second.  But does Watson really think? Super-computers already invest on Wall Street and land airplanes at busy airports. What will they do next? Is artificial intelligence nearing the point where it replaces not just our jobs but also our minds?

David Gondek, IBM Watson Research Center
Paul Saffo, Stanford University
Douglas Hofstadter, Indiana University
Brian Christian, philosophy and science writer

The Most Human Human

Brian Christian

Reporter's Notebook Public Employee Unions Show Their Strength in Wisconsin 7 MIN, 11 SEC

Republicans control the Wisconsin state Senate 19-to-14, but it takes 20 votes to act on fiscal matters. So Democratic state senators have crossed state lines to prevent a vote on Republican Governor Scott Walker's plan to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights. On Wednesday, President Obama invited a Wisconsin TV reporter for a White House interview, so he could comment on the dispute. Is the President taking the issue nationwide? Steven Greenhouse, author of The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, covers labor issues for the New York Times.

Steven Greenhouse, journalist and author (@greenhousenyt)

The Big Squeeze

Steven Greenhouse

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