Things tagged with: artificial intelligence

Robots Phone-in

Our fascination with machines runs deep. We like to think we are superior. But our smugness can be easily knocked down a peg by the likes of Watson, the IBM Supercomputer on Jeopardy. When Watson beat its human competitors, IBM was quick to point out that this is a victory for humankind. But some are left feeling a little leery. Listen to the show at CBC Ontario Today. Download the introduction. Download the main radio segment.

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The meaning of Watson

As many artificial intelligence aficionados have already made clear in the blogosphere, both before and after the match, Watson's victory does not meet the threshold of Turing's test. Not even close. Watson proved itself as an answer-generating machine par excellence. And, although Watson showed considerable computational skill in its ability to parse natural language, a conversationalist Watson was not. This reality was not lost on the IBM team. Hence the corporate choice to play Jeopardy! rather than address Turing's challenge head-on. So, if IBM's grand challenge was not to pass Turing's test, what exactly is going on here?

A quick romp through the sphere-o’-twits reveals what human-computer interaction specialists and the folks in Hollywood have understood for years: audiences can be engineered to like, love, lust for and trust machines like Watson better than human counterparts. And this is exactly what companies like IBM are counting on.

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Robot Law is Taking Over

A little over a year ago, in one of the most important privacy cases ever heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Ian Binnie sought to allay concerns that we are sleepwalking into a surveillance society with the following remark: "On these occasions, critics usually refer to 'Orwellian dimensions' and 1984, but the fact is that 1984 came and went without George Orwell's fears being entirely realized, although he saw earlier than most the direction in which things might be heading."

Like most judicial pronouncements with staying power, I still haven't quite figured out what he meant by this. Was the judge simply saying that the worries expressed by privacy advocates are sometimes overblown? Or was his clever, lawyerly use of the word "entirely" a tongue-in-cheek expression of genuine concern?

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