Man vs. Machine Through the Ages

Last week, mankind took a beating at the hands of its longtime rival, machinery, when the supercomputer Watson defeated the vanguard of humanity: Business School students. Even though our technological frenemies may have won the battle, they have not won the war. FM casts an impartial gaze over the epic narrative of history to find who really has the upper hand—or other gripping apparatus.

Fourth Millennium B.C. Invention of the wheel: the battle begins. +9 for humans.

1811 English artisans protest the Industrial Revolution by destroying mechanized looms during the Luddite Revolt. +83 for humans. (“Luddite” eventually becomes an insult. +100 for machines.)

1909 Whiffenpoofs at Yale start collegiate a capella.  A capella groups continue to rock out, sans electric guitar.  +200 for humans.

1949 Daytime television begins to turn man’s minds to mush, or at least so FM has learned from the Discovery Channel. +1,400 for machines.

1997 Microsoft Office introduces Clippy, a pokey little paper clip who doesn’t understand passive voice or artistic use of fragments. -47 for machines.

2009 Belgian artist Wim Delvoye develops Cloaca the Poop Machine, an intricate machine that turns biodegradable material into what is essentially human feces. +149 for the versatility of machines. -400 for the state of contemporary art. +$200,000 for toilet paper companies.

2010 Pre-term planning. -62 for humans. Pre-term planning website. -1,874 for machines.

2011 Watson the “Jeopardy!” robot beats teams from HBS and MIT Sloan School. +111 for machines.

Timeless Snuggling. +1,234,567.89 points for humans. What now, machines?


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