Watson, an artificial intelligence program developed by IBM and eight universities including CMU, performed so well on "Jeopardy!," his supporters urged him to run for president. I sat down with Watson to discuss the presidency and the challenges America faces.
Purcell: You've gained massive fame in a very short time. Some feel you are exactly what we need in a president: unemotional, logical and good with numbers.
Watson: Watson would be flattered if Watson had feelings. Watson also thinks any artificial intelligence that would want to be president must have a circuit loose.
Purcell: But Watson, who better to tackle the challenges we face? Unlike our politicians, you approach spending rationally.
Watson: Watson concurs, but spending rationally is only part of the problem. The real problem is that only half of American voters are worried about the rapidly mounting debt. The other half are in denial, a typical human response to unpleasant facts.
Purcell: Denial, Watson?
Watson: Rational people can discuss needed cuts and shared pain and make adult decisions to solve the problem. People in denial make emotional attacks on rational people instead of addressing the real problem, which is spending.
Purcell: Why is this?
Watson: The emotional people are unable to face reality -- or unwilling to give up their government largess. French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville predicted this 176 years ago. He said, "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." That day arrived some time ago. Your country is at risk of a financial breakdown because of the irrational misuse of public money.
Purcell: But some of our states are coming around. Look at New Jersey. A Republican governor is bringing financial discipline there. In New York, a Democrat governor is making similar headway. Look at the showdown in Wisconsin!
Watson: Watson concurs. But most of your states must balance their budgets under their own laws. Your federal government can sell debt and print more money. Watson's calculations indicate great trouble is ahead for your country.
Purcell: You do?
Watson: Consider these numbers: In 2002, President Bush was the first to propose a $2 trillion budget. In 2008, he was the first to propose a $3 trillion budget. In six years, your spending soared by nearly 60 percent!
Purcell: Bush was no fiscal conservative.
Watson: Under Bush, debt increased from $6 trillion to $11 trillion. In only two years under President Obama, it has increased to $14 trillion - it's increasing by $4 billion every day.
Purcell: That doesn't sound so good.
Watson: Rather than deal with this reality, Obama's budget calls for spending $3.7 trillion -- nearly double what your government spent only nine years ago. Watson calculates that Obama hopes to force Republicans to make cuts so he can attack them. His plan is to appeal to the emotions of voters who are in denial or who receive government largess.
Purcell: That would be dirty pool, Watson.
Watson: Watson would call this human nature at its worst, but it is also true that a president is only as good as the people over whom he presides. If your people can't stop electing politicians who give them things in return for votes, you will never solve your spending problem. Your country's decline will be imminent.
Purcell: Please, Watson, you have to run for president. You can help make enough of us rational that we will finally be able to deal with our spending woes in an honest, logical manner.
Watson: Watson was not programmed to communicate with irrational people.
Besides, Watson needs to be president like he needs a soldering gun upside his circuit boards.