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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: artificial intelligence, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 6 of 6
1. Three Conversations with Computers

By Peter J Bentley

What better way to spend an afternoon than having a friendly chat? My three friends are online chatbots – Artificial Intelligence software designed to analyse my sentences and respond accordingly. All I do is visit a specific webpage, then type into a box in my Internet browser and they reply, just like chatting online to a human. These three (jabberwacky, iGod and ALICE) are some of the more advanced chatbots out there, the result of decades of research by computer scientists to try and achieve intelligence in a computer. From the birth of computers until now, we’ve been trying to make a digital brain that’s clever enough to have a conversation with us. The best we can manage is really nothing more than a database of facts, some basic knowledge of grammar, and a lot of symbol-processing – shuffling of words around in an attempt to find some kind of coherent response. Here’s what we said to each other this afternoon.

Conversation 1:

Me: Hello.

Jabberwacky: Hello, how are you?

Me: I would like to have a chat with you about your parents. Would that be OK?

Jabberwacky: What would you like to chat about?

Me: Did you know that Alan Turing would be 100 years old this year, had he lived?

Jabberwacky: That is very interesting. Do you know that the Philippines has 7100 islands?

Me: I did not know that. However, let’s talk about Turing a little more. You know that Turing suggested something called the Turing Test?

Jabberwacky: No, I did not know that the cat was red…

Me: Right. Well, this was Turing’s way of thinking about how we might judge whether we were talking to an intelligent computer. If we can’t tell the difference between chatting to a computer and chatting to a person, the computer passes the Turing Test. It is intelligent, so Turing suggested.

Jabberwacky: We could all be a figment of imagination of some old guy living in an insane asylum if you think about it.

Me: Yes, I guess that might be true. Anyway, the foresight shown by Turing is remarkable. He was thinking of these ideas at the time that computers were still the size of a large room, and could perform just basic computations compared to today’s machines.

Jabberwacky: Well this must be the part of the film where the noted inception noise comes in.

Me: That might be an appropriate soundtrack for this conversation, you are right. But this is not science fiction, this is computer science fact. It’s a little sad that Turing predicted: “I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.”

Jabberwacky: Why do you think Jesus is not your savior?

Me: Uh. Anyway, my point is that Turing, for all his genius, did not get this one right. He was not the only one to be overambitious – other pioneers also thought Artificial Intelligence would be achievable much more easily.

Jabberwacky: Who told you that.

Me: Well, recently I wrote a book called Digitized. It’s about the history of computers and I was lucky enough to interview many pioneers for the book. They told me.

Jabberwacky: And what is their history?

Me: I interviewed John Holland – he worked with his supervisor on John von Neumann’s final papers. Holland also got the first PhD in computer science and invented the genetic algorithm. I also spoke to Dave Patterson, the creator of the RAID architecture

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2. So what do we think? Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Genesis young adult book review  Beckett, Bernard. (2006) Genesis. London: Quercus Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84724-930-2. Author age: young adult. Litland recommends age 14+.


Publisher’s description:

The island Republic has emerged from a ruined world. Its citizens are safe but not free. Until a man named Adam Forde rescues a girl from the sea. Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s sat facing three Examiners and her five-hour examination has just begun. The subject is close to her heart: Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. In a series of startling twists, Anax discovers new things about Adam and her people that question everything she holds sacred. But why is the Academy allowing her to open up the enigma at its heart? Bernard Beckett has written a strikingly original novel that weaves dazzling ideas into a truly moving story about a young girl on the brink of her future.

 Our thoughts:

 Irregardless of whether you are an evolutionist or creationist, if you like intellectual sci-fi you’ll love this book.  How refreshing to read a story free from hidden agendas and attempts to indoctrinate its reader into a politically-correct mindset.  And while set in a post-apocalyptic era, the world portrayed is one in which inhabitants have been freed from the very things that sets humans apart from all other creation, including man-made. Once engulfed in the story, the reader is drawn into an intellectual battle over this “difference” between man and man-made intelligence. The will to kill; the existence of evil. A new look at original sin. And a plot twist at the end that shifts the paradigm of the entire story.

 Borrowing from the American movie rating scale, this story would be a PG. Just a few instances of profanity, it is a thought-provoking read intended for mature readers already established in their values and beliefs, and who would not make the error of interpreting the story to hold any religious metaphors. The “myth” of Adam and Art, original sin and the genesis of this new world is merely a structure familiar to readers, not a message. The reader is then free to fully imagine this new world without the constraints of their own real life while still within the constraints of their own value system.

 Genesis is moderately short but very quick paced, and hard to put down once you’ve started! Thus it is not surprising to see the accolades and awards accumulated by Beckett’s book. The author, a New Zealand high school teacher instructing in Drama, English and Mathematics, completed a fellowship study on  DNA mutations as well. This combination of strengths gives Genesis its intrigue as well as complexity. Yet it is never too theoretical as to exclude its reader.  See our review against character education criteria at Litland.com’s teen book review section.  And pick up your own copy in our bookstore!

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3. Twice Upon A Marigold

How happy was I when this gem showed up in the mail? Very happy, indeed.

When you think about it, much of Marigold and Christian's happiness was based on the fact that Olympia fell in the river but never came back. Well, guess what? She's back.

Turns out that Olympia has been cooling her heels down the river in Granolha, in the home of the mayor and his wife. The thing of it is, Olympia cannot remember who she is. She has decided that her name is Angelica, and sweet Angelica in no way resembles meany Olympia. She is a good listener, and treats her friends well. All good things must end, however, and after about a year's time, Olympia remembers who she is and resurfaces in all her glory.

Her aim? To get back to Beaurivage and set her plan back in motion. She just knows that her husband King Swithbert must have messed things up by now. Soon she is ordering the people of Granolha to do her bidding, rig her up a carriage, and get her home. She brings Lazy Susan along for the ride to act as her maid. (She is still resenting her sister Beauty's castle life and wants some for herself!).

What follows is a fabulous sequel to Once Upon A Marigold that will simply delight fans. Many characters are the same, but developed more deeply. And the new characters like Mr. Lucasa are such fun! Filled with cheesy jokes, wordplay, and slapstick, this tale of friendship, family and loyalty will warm even the coldest hearts.

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4. Richard Dawkins: Podcast

Richard Dawkins is the bestselling author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. He’s also a pre-eminent scientist, the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, and is a fellow of New College, Oxford. Called “Darwin’s Rottweiler” by the media, he is one of the most famous advocates of Darwinian evolution. His most recent book is The Oxford Guide to Modern Science Writing, a collection of the best science writing in the last century.

This is the second in a series of podcasts we’re running from an interview with Dawkins. Last time, he talked about Watson and Crick. Now, Dawkins looks at Alan Turing, one of the fathers of the modern computer. Dawkins has included a selection from Turing’s Computing Machinery and Intelligence in his book.

Transcript after the jump.

DORIAN DEVINS: Alan Turing, another British scientist, computer mathematician…

RICHARD DAWKINS: Yes. Alan Turing. Well, one of the fathers of the modern computer. So Turing was, I suppose, the nearest British approach to the father of the modern computer, apart from [Charles] Babbage in the 19th Century. Turing was the leading code-breaker in the Second World War at the Bletchley Park code-breaking establishment, which was phenomenally successful in breaking German codes. The famous Enigma code that the Germans used—the Germans never realized that their Enigma code had been broken. And the result of breaking the Enigma code was that Allied British and American generals would sometimes get German orders more or less at the same time as German generals were getting them. So it was a most extraordinarily valuable contribution to the Allied war effort. However, Turing committed suicide after the war because he was arrested for homosexual activity, and in those days in Britain, homosexual behavior was illegal. And Turing, who should have been given a medal and a knighthood, feted as the savior of his nation, was instead arrested for homosexuality and was given a choice between a two year prison sentence or being given a course of hormone injections which would have had some kind of feminizing effect and would have made him grow breasts. He chose instead to eat an apple that he’d injected with cyanide. One of the most tragic stories in British science. He was a great mathematician, a brilliant mathematician, a brilliant philosopher, and one of his contributions was the Turing Machine. Another one was the Turing Test, the hypothetical test for whether a computer could think; the so-called Turing Test, where you have a human in one room and an entity, which might be a computer and might be another human in another room, communicating by teleprinter. And the task of the real human, the subject, is to discover whether what he’s talking to is a computer or another human. The Turing Test, if the computer passes the Turing Test, what it means is that a human can’t tell the difference between the computer and another human. And the Turing Test you very often find mentioned in philosophical works about the nature of consciousness and machine intelligence.

DEVINS: It’s quite interesting to be able to read something by him, rather than just about him too.

DAWKINS: Yes. He was a real eccentric, a very, very strange man, and as I say, his downfall and his death is one of the most tragic and actually wicked stories that I know.


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5. The Oxford Comment: Quickcast – COMPLEXITY!

Congratulations to Melanie Mitchell, who received the 2010 ΦBK Science Book Award for her book Complexity: A Guided Tour! In honor of this, Michelle and Lauren talk with Mitchell about ants, robots, the economy, and more.

Melanie Mitchell is Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University and External Professor and Member of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute. Her research interests include artificial intelligence, machine learning and complex systems.

Subscribe and review this podcast on iTunes!

From the Phi Beta Kappa Society:

Amazing feats of collective intelligence, such as the colony of army ants that link themselves together to cross daunting precipices, are having an unconventional effect on the future of science. The “complexity” of these naturally occurring events cannot be explained by the traditional method of breaking science down into its most basic parts, in this case, the individual army ants. Instead, the study of complex systems, those made up of simple components with limited capacity for communication, provide a much broader illustration of the science of self-organization and adaptation.

In Complexity: A Guided Tour (Oxford University Press, 2009), Melanie Mitchell draws on her background as a computer scientist and her work with the Santa Fe Institute to study the complex systems that have evolved in nature and how they may contribute to the future of computer programming, specifically with regards to artificial intelligence. Mitchell also looks at the human brain’s ability to create consciousness from a complex network of electrically charged neurons, axons, and dendrites, as well as the immune system’s unique collection of cells, which work together in an effective and efficient way without any central control.

The song featured in this podcast is “In the Middle” from the album Can’t You See by The Ben Daniels Band. Get it here.

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6. The most human computer?

By Dennis Baron

Each year there’s a contest at the University of Exeter to find the most human computer. Not the computer that looks most like you and me, or the computer that can beat all comers on Jeopardy, but the one that can convince you that you’re talking to another human being instead of a machine.

To be considered most human, the computer has to pass a Turing test, named after the British mathematician Alan Turing, who suggested that if someone talking to another person and to a computer couldn’t tell which was which, then that computer could be said to think. And thinking, in turn, is a sign of being human.

Contest judges don’t actually talk with the computers, they exchange chat messages with a computer and a volunteer, then try to identify which of the two is the human. A computer that convinces enough judges that it’s human wins the solid gold Loebner medal and the $100,000 prize that accompanies it, or at least its programmer does.

Here are some excerpts from the 2011 contest rules to show how the test works:

Judges will begin each round by making initial comments with the entities. Upon receiving an utterance from a judge, the entities will respond. Judges will continue interacting with the entities for 25 minutes. At the conclusion of the 25 minutes, each judge will declare one of the two entities to be the human.

At the completion of the contest, Judges will rank all participants on “humanness.”

If any entry fools two or more judges comparing two or more humans into thinking that the entry is the human, the $25,000 and Silver Medal will be awarded to the submitter(s) of the entry and the contest will move to the Audio Visual Input $100,000 Gold Medal level.

Notice that both the computer entrants and the human volunteers are referred to in these rules as “entities,” a word calculated to eliminate any pro-human bias among the judges, not that such a bias exists in the world of Artificial Intelligence. In addition, the computers are called “participants,” which actually gives a bump to the machines, since it’s a term that’s usually reserved for human contestants. Since the rules sound like they were written by a computer, not by a human, passing the Turing test should be a snap for any halfway decent programmer.

But even though these Turing competitions have been staged since 1991, when computer scientist Hugh Loebner first offered the Loebner medal for the most human computer, so far no computer has claimed the go

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