cognitive-cookingIs this the end? Cookbooks have proved a surprisingly resilient category of printed book — they make such good gifts. But here’s Jeopardy winner Watson scrutinizing all your ingredients and generating recipes for you. As IBM’s press release says “Chef Watson is able to learn recipes, dish types, and ingredients, understand human taste preferences, and then rearrange and redesign the data to generate unique combinations of savory ingredient pairings. Given the numerous different combinations of possible ingredients in the world, it’s impossible for a single person to imagine and reason about them all.”

Surely this means that flipping through recipe books is now shamefully analog — the sort of thing only your granny should be seen doing. From time to time “they” do go on about a wired-up refrigerator that tells you (or even automatically orders) what you are running out of. Well now it can send you an list of dishes you can whip up with what’s on hand. Thus far you still have to be the one to turn on the gas, stir the pot and do the cleaning up: but we can live in hope. I do think that we are just at the beginning of this sort of brain-add-on computing. We vent a lot about the difficulty of sorting through all the books out there now, but Watson or a relative will surely soon be able to digest all that for us, and return suggestions for what we might like to read next. Of course there’s nothing to stop his precocious great nephew from reading it all for us and delivering to us whatever inputs it is that our highly connected brain might feel the need of.

But wait a minute: one has to wonder when one discovers that they are promoting this new whizz-bang system with . . .  a cookbook.

And as our Luddite friends might have anticipated (hoped), when they tested it on NPR Chef Watson’s recipe did omit any instruction for using one or two of the ingredients listed. I guess it still has people in there somewhere, able reassuringly to make mistakes.

(Link via Book Patrol)