Science fiction has built up the idea of artificial intelligence for years. Real AI is quite fascinating and in many ways entirely different to what I expected.
Science fiction has built up the idea of artificial intelligence for years. Giving machines intelligence often spells the end of mankind as they then rise up against their creators and violently free themselves from oppression. There are cautionary tales such as in the film "Spider Man 2" in which the robotic arms of Dr. Octavius start controlling his brain thus forcing him to perform actions of benefit to them. I've never really had an interest in artificial intelligence until recently when I started studying the very basics at university. The only AI Science Fiction that's ever actually interested me was 'Blade Runner' and its novel, 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' written by Philip K. Dick. The subtext of the story deals with AI becoming self-aware but still unaware of its true nature, a concept that interested me greatly. Real AI is quite fascinating and in many ways entirely different to what I expected.
To start with, what exactly is AI? http://www.dictionary.com defines it as follows:
From what I can tell ASIMO isn't intended to be a particularly human robot beyond superficial levels. He doesn't exhibit emotion or learn outside of his constraints (he can learn areas and navigate them etc. but you couldn't just sit down and teach him to play the piano without getting in and doing some serious reprogramming). He's not going to be fooling anyone into believing that he's human any time soon.
The Turing Test is a measure of Artificial Intelligence that was created by Alan Turing. He stated that the question of whether or not machines could think was too vague, and proposed a test that was more specific. His test, without going into too much detail, involved trying to get a computer to fool people into believing that it was human. The people would type a question into a console and receive a response from the computer on the other side. While there has been much work done on systems trying to pass the Turing test, none of them have succeeded yet. There has also been research done into creating machines that can exhibit emotions. However, we're still a long way off from seeing a machine that can appear to be alive.
The early excitement over AI led to developers trying to create a generic reasoning problem solver that could search through a mass of knowledge that it has acquired and find solutions to any problem that was thrown at it. Unfortunately this proved almost impossible in practice. Today's AI tends to focus on very specific problems and knowledge areas. Expert Systems are programs that are "Experts" in a specific field and can answer queries related to only that field. Their applications include medical diagnosis, credit card application, and other fields where data is to be analyzed.
I haven't even begun to explore the true extent of AI in this article, but maybe I've piqued your interest. If you want to look into it further, try reading the Wikipedia (free on-line encyclopedia) entry and maybe downloading something like Prolog to have a go and see what real AI is like. I find it quite interesting because it involves a similar mindset to programming as you attempt to break a problem down enough for a computer to understand it, but of course the actual implementation is very different.
Here's a fun thing to try. Open a copy of ALICE (http://www.alicebot.org/), start a conversation with a friend on your messenger program of choice, feed their responses into ALICE and send the program's responses back. See how long it takes before they either work out what's happening or get annoyed and block you (which has been the most common result of my experimentations). Enjoy your exploration of the world of artificial intelligence.
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