Tag Archives: AI

Loebner Prize winner doesn’t believe in Turing Test anyway

Yesterday saw Reading University here in the UK playing host to the annual Loebner Artificial Intelligence Prize event – a contest based around Alan Turing’s famous benchmark for artificial intelligence that can really think, namely whether or not it can successfully imitate human communications.

The bronze medal (for fooling a quarter of the judges) went to Elbot, a chat-bot program created by Fred Roberts, but Roberts himself seems to be not so impressed by Turing’s theory:

“I don’t think it’s anything like thought,” he said of Elbot’s conversational prowess. “If you know a magic trick, you know how it’s done, it’s not magic anymore. Sorry to be so pessimistic.”

With the caveat that I have no expertise in cognition or expert systems, I’m inclined to agree with him. [via The Guardian]

The perils of “thinkism”

Kevin Kelly has an interesting comment on the technological singularity, vis a vis the assumption that given a sufficiently powerful digital computer you can accurately model the entire universe without needing correction from empirical “real world” evidence:

The notion of an instant Singularity rests upon the misguided idea that intelligence alone can solve problems.

As an essay called Why Work Toward the Singularity lets slip: “Even humans could probably solve those difficulties given hundreds of years to think about it.”

In this approach one only has to think about problems smartly enough to solve them.  I call that “thinkism.”

No amount of thinkism will discover how the cell ages, or how telomeres fall off. No intelligence, no matter how super duper, can figure out how human body works simply by reading all the known scientific literature in the world and then contemplating it.

Kelly points out that AIs should be “embodied in the world.” Other topics to consider are the impact of non-human-intelligences, based on genetic algorithms, improved data-mining methods, and evolution-based design (video link, via BoingBoing). These kinds of non-human intelligences will have/have already had profound effects.

[image from tanakawho on flickr]

Google – trying to predict the future by inventing it

Google logo on a whiteboardThe official Google blog isn’t always the most exciting of reads, but every now and again they post up something worth a read. Today saw the first of ten articles from the top boffins at the Googleplex to celebrate the company’s tenth anniversary; it’s about the future of cloud computing, and it hints at a fairly science fictional end-point:

Traditionally, systems that solve complicated problems and queries have been called “intelligent”, but compared to earlier approaches in the field of ‘artificial intelligence’, the path that we foresee has important new elements. First of all, this system will operate on an enormous scale with an unprecedented computational power of millions of computers. It will be used by billions of people and learn from an aggregate of potentially trillions of meaningful interactions per day. It will be engineered iteratively, based on a feedback loop of quick changes, evaluation, and adjustments.

Underneath that corporate gloss is the enthusiasm of researchers who believe they’re working toward a useful form of artificial intelligence. This isn’t news, of course – Larry Page has been quite open about that particular long-term goal – but it’s the assured confidence that Google has which never ceases to astonish. From the introduction to the article:

As computer scientist Alan Kay has famously observed, the best way to predict the future is to invent it, so we will be doing our best to make good on our experts’ words every day.

One can’t help but be reminded of the Genius Inventor archetypes of pulp science fiction… but in this case that blue-sky vision is backed up by the bankroll of one of the most powerful organisations on the planet. [image by dannysullivan]

So, is it hubris, hype or hope… or a mixture of all three? Should we fear the Big G, or look to it to usher in something like the Singularity and save us from ourselves? Or is AI just a pipe dream for big-budget geeks?


This month David McGillveray returns to Futurismic with a new story, “The Plastic Elf of Extrusion Valley”. Strange things are afoot in the computer-controlled fabrication farms of Germany’s Altes Land

The Plastic Elf of Extrusion Valley

by David McGillveray

A cold October breeze came down from the North Sea, but no leaves rustled in the plastic forest. Instead, an eerie, fluting music played in the valley as the wind moved over the tall cylinders like a kid blowing over bottle tops.

My midnight walks were one of the few pleasures I took from working in the extrusion fields. Despite the approaching winter, the soil was warm against the soles of my feet. I imagined with equal measures of fascination and disquiet the seething activity below, the billions of nanoconstructors setting molecule upon molecule, endlessly building. These fields never lay fallow: four harvests per year, as kilometres of commercial piping grew fresh from the magic soil, regular as quarterly budgets. Continue reading NEW FICTION: THE PLASTIC ELF OF EXTRUSION VALLEY by David McGillveray

Incredible walking robot ‘Big Dog’

Check out this incredible video of Boston Dynamics’ robot ‘Big Dog’. The quadruped robot stumbles on ice, maneuvers through snow, climbs over blocks and recovers after being kicked. ‘Big Dog’ is being developed in association with DARPA for use as an Army pack horse that doesn’t tire.

The robot has a certain ‘AT-AT’ quality, doesn’t it? It’s amazing how creepily lifelike its movements are. If you had to trek across the desert or Antarctic, would you like a ‘Big Dog’ around carrying your gear?

[via Futurist.com and Open The Future, Youtube video by Boston Dynamics]