Computer dating

I recently got an iPhone which includes the virtual assistant, Siri.  Siri comes from the early Artificial Intelligence programme Eliza, which was an early natural language processing computer program created from 1964 to 1966 at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory by Joseph Weizenbaum.  You can have long conversations with Eliza and people thought she was human.

You can try Eliza here.

While Siri is descended from Eliza, she is far from being indistinguishable from a human.  That’s where the Turing Test comes in.  This test was developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.  Siri makes it clear she is not human and has a long way to go to become one.

I would say she is poor at doing her job.  My joke is that my wife should be worried if I had a personal assistant as inept as Siri since it wouldn’t be her PA skills that kept her around.

But there is a desire on the part of humans to have a machine intelligence which is useful, but even the best systems are flawed.  I had a private screening of two AI classics: the Twilight Zone episode, The Lonely (season 1, episode 7) which featured a young Jean Marsh as Alicia, and Spike Jonze’s Her. Both of these must take place in the future since the current state of the art of Artificial Intelligence is far from the level of humanity shown by the robot and operating system.  Especially if I use Siri and other systems as a benchmark.

The one issue I have is the autonomy shown in sci-fi for intelligent systems: especially the one Samantha shows in Her. I think the reality would probably be closer to how Alicia acts in the Twilight Zone episode, where she learns from her human master.  This then gets into the topic of sex robots, which at this point are basically the RealDoll that moves and speaks.  I can’t really address how well it does this since my experience of these comes from this Guardian video and my experience with other artificial systems.

You can see RealDoll’s Harmony app in action here.  I am not sure how well it will work in reality, but is sounds like Siri with a libido.

Although, I do have to disagree with the ethicist who thinks that machine sex is bad since it may reflect on human relationships.  I think there would always be the knowledge that the Sex robot was a machine. Again, I think the real experience might run closer to the Twilight Zone episode than actual slavery and debasement.

Then the other issue is the disembodied nature of an intelligent system such as Siri or Samantha.  Her got into that issue. But the fact is that an intelligent system may know a lot about me, but she can’t do a whole lot of tasks around the house.  Toss in there isn’t the real human touch with the current state of the art.  The interactions of Theodore and Samantha on a date seemed a bit like Lars and the Real Girl, but slightly more accepting.

On the other hand, enough people are glued to their cellphone that it could be someone on the other end instead of an intelligent agent.

The bottom line to me is that Siri is sort of useful, but I can do most of the tasks she does.  And I can do them much better.  It would be nice if the web search were weighted and more accurate (I want current information) and she could read a result to me: especially if I am driving.  Instead, I find myself correcting Siri’s inaccuracies, which is something one doesn’t want from a personal assistant of any kind.

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