Artificial Intelligence: Keyword “Artificial”

After reading chapters six and seven in Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together” about Artificial Intelligence (AI), it made me think about the kind of world we would live in if robots existed and how it compares to the world we currently live in. Can robots actually mock human emotion? Furthermore, are we cyborgs (part human/part machine) since smartphones (machines) have become so vital to how we (humans) live? Will there actually be a real life version of Skynet?

Mathematician Alan Turing created a test to determine if machines are intelligent. This test, called the imitation game, would classify a computer as intelligent if it could convince people it was not a machine. Here is a clip from the movie “The Imitation Game” where Alan Turing explains the purpose of his test and how it applies to the process of thought and emotion.

When I think of artificial intelligence and whether a computer or robot can pass a human, it makes me think of the scene from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, when the character John Connor explains why humans cry and teaches the Terminator how to give a high five. Can the machine become independent from a human, even if the human is the creator? How can a machine be considered intelligent if it can be turned off with the flick of a switch, much like a microwave or television can?

Ray Kurzweil, advocate of singularity, would argue that machines will one day become one with humans, making my notion of a simple shut off switch much more difficult to argue. What happens if I shut myself off? Am I a cyborg since I always have my smartphone on me, powered on? Kurzweil argues that by 2029 the human brain will have been reverse engineered to simulate all of the brain’s capabilities, including emotional intelligence, to create machines that will become emotionally superior to humans.

This worries me mainly because I see the impact of technology on our students today in the form of a smart phone. Face to face conversation with people has become more difficult with so many technological distractions, desensitizing us from human emotion. At what point will humans be expendable and robots will take over the earth? Will there be a robot in every home, and human friends will no longer be needed? Could the robots become self aware, in comparison with Skynet in Terminator 2?

In my opinion I feel that Singularity has arrived in a way. I notice this in my interactions with people on a daily basis. We constantly have our phones with us, ready to check our phone at the instant of an alert or vibration of our phone. Human interaction seems to be easily compromised in the presence of these devices. One can think they are truly engaged in a conversation with someone, only to be quickly ended by a phone call or text message. Here is the Vieira test: before you go to bed one night, put your phone in the night stand drawer, and leave it there for 24 hours. If you have one stimulation to go and check that phone, you are officially a cyborg, meaning that piece of technology has become a part of you, and how you live.

Finally, we have the ELIZA program, which was created to serve as a psychotherapist, answering questions in the form of a question, much like a therapist would do. This proved to be an “as if” program, meaning people would type questions and statements into the program as if someone were listening. This program could not simulate true human emotion, serving more as a means to be heard.

ELIZA can be seen all over the world today, in the form of Siri. If you ask Siri a question, she will answer it with the most accurate response she can provide.

If you provide her with a command, such as “tell me about yourself,” she responds with a very simple “I’m Siri…here to help.” When asked to elaborate, she asks, “Who me?” where I respond appropriately with “yes.” She then responds with “I’m Siri. But I don’t like talking about myself.”

In this exercise, I tried having a conversation with Siri, but her objective was to serve my command and answer with an empty statement. Siri is programmed to carry out commands, not to have a meaningful conversation, much like the ELIZA program.

Perhaps one day, using the principles of Alan Turing, Ray Kurzweil, and ELIZA, we will create a robot that can truly pass as a human. Picture a day where people could have their very own robot to share stories with, fix their car with, and to share experiences with. The video below summarizes all my thoughts on artificial intelligence and the direction that I feel scientists are headed (without the whole Skynet becoming self aware thing).

-John V

*I chose to create my discussion response within a blog post because I feel it is most appropriate to the media that I chose to embed in my response. For each mode of communication, I embedded a movie/television clip to accompany it that provided a visual and supported my viewpoint on that particular mode of communication. The blog post format serves best in engaging the audience when embedding videos, images, and other forms of multimedia.


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