Readers rant: On IBM's Watson, Apple's sins, hacker superheroes, and Charlie Sheen

Are computers taking over? Is Apple's system really closed? Will hacktivists save us? What the heck is tiger blood? My readers have the answers

It's been more than a month since I dug into my reader mailbag, and in that time quite a bit has transpired: IBM's Watson wiped the "Jeopardy" stage floor with its puny human competitors; we saw the resolution of the Egyptian uprising (and the beginnings of others in Libya and elsewhere); the war between Anonymous and security firm HBGary Federal heated up; AOL purchased the Huffington Post; Apple introduced the iPad 2 and its new content subscription plans; and of course, Charlie Sheen.

You folks had a lot to say about much of that. Here are excerpts from some of the choicer letters I received.

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Regarding the victory of machines over mankind ("IBM's Watson makes it official -- humanity is toast"), a Cringester calling himself "Uncle Stu" writes:

In the computerized workplace of the future there will only be two employees -- a man and a dog. The man's job is to feed the dog. The dog's job is to bite the man if he touches a computer…. On a more serious note, a human brain uses less energy than a very small light bulb. How much does Watson use?

Beats me. I'm only operating at 7 watts myself, and that's a compact fluorescent. But reader J. L. takes a (slightly) more optimistic view of our new digital overlords:

We need to program the computers to learn compassion, appreciate human sports, the arts, etc. At the very least, they'll take pity on us and at the very best they will truly value what we can do. In turn, we'll take care of them (and hopefully appreciate them) as they take care of and appreciate us.

Have you hugged your computer today? Better do it soon before it cuts off your air supply.

Apple's new content subscription plans ticked off a lot of people. In "Apple: You say you want a revolution," I asked whose side of the fight you were on, open (Google, for example) or closed (Apple). Reader T. B., a developer of enterprise apps for the iPad, responded that Apple's system really isn't closed:

We can build anything we want for it. We do it daily. We don't submit anything on the app store, we honestly don't even need an Apple developer license. We just use one of the several open platform tools that act very much like Access or dBase, allowing us to build all kinds of apps (native apps, not HTML5, mind you)… And, the tighter control of Apple's OS is an advantage, in terms of maintaining security for employee-owned Tablets and smartphones in the enterprise. The "open" nature of Android makes it more dangerous for corporate clients.

Meanwhile, Cringe-o-phile D. B. casts his votes for open:

Open, Open, Open. Nothing but Open…. Does that count for 3 or 4 votes?

That depends on whether you count hanging chads, D. B.

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