Some thoughts about tech

After watching the movie "Ex Machina"

A Turing Test is a test to see a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to or indistinguishable from that of a human. In the movie, "Ex Machina", a young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. Certainly, it is important that a successful A.I. can hold a fluid conversation. There is a scene in the movie where Ava, the female A.I., angrily tells Kaleb, the programmer, that they are not having a real conversation. Ava scorns Kaleb for simply asking her questions and observing her behavior rather than engaging in a mutually invested conversation. To hold a normal conversation, it requires more than mere grammatical knowledge. The movie made me think of a book I read called “Can Machines Think?” by Dennett. In the book, the author mentions Terry Winograd, “a leader in artificial intelligence”, and his efforts to produce conversational ability in computer. He mentions that Winograd’s effort shows how computers can certainly create sentences. But to generate sentences with wrong grammar but sensible meaning requires a lot of world knowledge. Think about the times you encountered foreigners or babies speaking English. Despite their broken grammar and pronunciation, you can still use your “knowledge about the world, about politics, social circumstances, committees, and their attitudes” to predict what they are saying. Hence, a true Artificial Intelligence encompasses more than what Alan Turing presumed, an ability to think. AI would need to intelligently respond to information about social and political circumstances as well. 

Also, this raises the question of sarcasm or humor. Dennett describes an imitation test that asks the judge to read about a funny story and explain why the story is funny or sad. Humor requires creativity, empathy, and the right timing. In the movie, "Her", Samantha, an intelligent computer operating system, is able to bounce off jokes and even exchange sexual feelings with a human. How can computers intelligently understand and generate humor?

A computer can generate jokes based on a wide inventory of human humor and patterns of jokes it learned. However, I question if computers can catch the subtle innuendos of funniness that is so specific to the context. In other words, anyone can own hundred blocks of lego, but only the creative or intelligent ones can build something more than just another house or a car. Creativity kicks in when people start thinking about how the structure sits in space, how different colors are used, and how adjacencies are created by different sized blocks. People can consider each of these variables on its own, seeing value in its independent element, as well as together within a bigger structure. Same applies for humor. Comedians find the baseline of our feelings and experiences and twist them, creating connections that we never thought of. Perhaps that’s why funniest jokes are the ones that we can empathize with but evoke a new feeling. In order for computers to be truly funny, it would need to understand situational humor, human feelings, and culture.

Jasmine OhComment