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Posts Tagged ‘supercomputers’

Bad Connection

June 17, 2014 | by

Living with the Turing test.

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Researchers from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) using an IBM type 704 electronic data processing machine in 1957. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As of last week, the Turing test has—allegedly—been passed. In 1950, Alan Turing famously predicted that in the early twenty-first century, computer programs capable of sending and receiving text messages would be able to fool human judges into mistaking them for humans 30 percent of the time, and that we would come to “speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” Two weekends ago, at a Turing test competition held at the Royal Society in London, a piece of so-called “chatbot” software called “Eugene Goostman” crossed that mark, fooling ten of the thirty human judges who spoke with it.

The official press release described this as a “milestone in computing history”—a “historic event.” Was it? We should not, of course, take a press release’s word for it. (Said release describes the winning chatbot program as a “supercomputer,” a head-scratching conflation of hardware with software.)

The release says this is the first time a computer program has scored above 30 percent in an “unrestricted” Turing test. This appears to be plausibly true. We don’t have access to the transcripts of these conversations—the organizers declined my request—but we know that the persona adopted by the winning chatbot (“Eugene Goostman”) was that of a thirteen-year-old, non-native-speaking foreigner. The Turing tests of the 1990s were restricted by topics, with the judge’s questions limited to a single domain. Here, the place of those constraints has been taken by restricted fluency: both linguistic and cultural. From correspondence with the contest organizers, I learned that the human judges were themselves chosen to include children and nonnative speakers. So we might fairly argue about what, for a Turing test, truly counts. These questions are deeper than they seem. Read More »

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Hey, Babe, and Other News

May 27, 2014 | by

THUMB_Frédéric_Soulacroix_-_The_Cavalier's_Kiss

Frédéric Soulacroix, The Cavalier's Kiss

  • Julian Gough’s celebration of Joyce wins the award for Title of the Year: “James Joyce: You can’t ignore the bastard.” “Joyce entered your life very differently in rural Ireland in the early 1980s. Back then, he still existed outside the official system. Too difficult, too scandalous for school. It was still possible for teenagers to read Joyce as an act of rebellion against teachers, government, church. You read Joyce the way you listened to late punk, or early rap.”
  • What’s the point of infantilizing pet names? “In the mid-twentieth century, Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz proposed that babies’ cuteness is an evolutionarily advantageous adaptation without which they wouldn’t survive; adults need some sort of incentive to provide them with constant care, and Lorenz thought that motive was admiring their cuteness. He believed men carry this preference into adulthood by looking for women who retain elements of babyish ‘cuteness.’”
  • The story of an art historian’s shrewd detective work: “A supposedly minor work from the Qing dynasty turned out to be a masterpiece nearly 700 years old.”
  • In 2012, before Kara Walker’s exhibition arrived there, David Allee photographed Brooklyn’s dilapidated Domino Sugar Factory. “While his pictures could not convey the smell of the factory—‘crème brûlée mixed with mold and rot’—he hoped to communicate something about its complicated history … Inside the prison-like spaces, there was also ‘a visceral sense that the work that took place here was torturous.’ At the same time, he said, ‘everything is literally sugar coated.’”
  • In the sixties, TV and film writers dreamed up a bunch of supercomputers with one thing in common: they were hell-bent on annihilating humanity.

 

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