“It looks like you’re trying to have a conversation with a computer – can I help?
In the early 1970s, no science show was complete without predictions of HAL-like intelligent autonomous computers by the turn of the century.
The Japanese, fearing their industrial base would collapse without a response to this omniscient technology, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into their own AI project, called Fifth Generation. They may as well have buried the money in the Pacific Ocean. Two decades later there are no intelligent robots, and “intelligent” computers are a pipe-dream.
(It was an academic coup for MIT’s Professor Marvin Minsky, a fixture on the AI slots. Minsky’s own preferred, linguistics-based approach to AI, symbolic AI, triumphed in the grants lotteries over an approach which preferred to investigate and mimic the neural functions of the brain. Minsky’s non-stop publicity campaign helped ensure his AI lab at MIT was well-rewarded while neural networks starved.)
For the past week reports have again confidently predicted intelligent computers are just around the corner. Rollo Carpenter, whose chatbot Joan won an annual AI prize for creating software that most resembles a human, predicts that computers will pass the ‘Turing Test’ by 2016. In this test, computer software fools a human interrogator by passing off as a human.
(You can spot the flaw already: to sound human isn’t a sign of intelligence. And what a pity it is that Turing is remembered more for his muddle-headed metaphysics than for his landmark work in building computational machines. It’s a bit like lauding Einstein for opposition to the theory of plate tectonics, rather than his work on relativity, or remembering Newton for his alchemy, not his theory of gravity).
But let’s have a look. A moment’s glance at the conversation of Joan, or George, is enough to show us there is no intelligence here.