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Artificial Intelligence is Here - 'Do you read me, HAL'

Updated on November 15, 2016
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The renowned Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory was started nearly 50 years ago in 1963, by mathematician and computer scientist John McCarthy who believed that it would take only a decade to create a thinking machine. It has taken a lot longer than expected, but there have been many notable advances.

IBM has developed a computing system named Watson (why not HAL?) that has an advanced ability to process human language. This is the first step to making machines and robots will increasingly be able to recognise jargon, nuance and even riddles and engage in a meaningful conversation with humans and perform complex and useful functins.

Machines that are facile, and merely feed-back information from databases when answering questions are counter-productive and are not really 'smart' in the human sense. The essence of being human involves asking questions, not answering them. Computers need to be able to demonstrated that they can compete against real humans in application that involve speech and intelligent two-way conversation.

Watson beats 'em in Jeopardy!
Watson beats 'em in Jeopardy! | Source

HAL (which stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is an artificial intelligence computer, which has a largely independent responsibility for running the spacecraft.

It interacts with the crew via voice conversations, and usually is seen as a red television camera "eye".

HAL speaks in a soft voice and a conversational manner.

Towards the end of the film HAL refuses human commands when it learns that the crew is planning to shut it down, due to its errant behaviour. It is a great Movie!

HAL and '2001 a Space Odyssey'

HAL 9000 is the renowned on-board computer system created by Arthur C. Clarke that runs the 'Discovery One', the spaceship in the fictional Space Odyssey saga.

It is a good example of where Artificial Intelligence is heading and highlights some of the risks.

'Watson' to Play Jeopardy against the Best Human Players

The remarkable advances in Artificial Intelligence are being put to the test by broadcasting a 'Jeopardy' competition between Watson, the IBM computing system, against the two best human players, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Jeopardy is an American quiz show that includes trivia in history, wordplay, geography, sports, science, pop culture, the arts and literature, and more. The unique feature of the show is its 'answer-and-question' format in which contestants are given various clues in the form of answers, and must provide their responses in the form of a question.

If Watson can defeat its human opponents in Jeopardy it will mark a major milestone, similar to the chess-playing machines that rival many grand masters. IBM has forecast that Watson heralds the beginning of profound economic and sociological changes from the application of artificial intelligence. Will smart machines displace humans from their jobs? Rapid progress in natural language processing is beginning to lead to a new wave of automation in areas previously untouched by technological change. The most obvious application is to replace call-centre staff for telecommunication and provision of backup support and user queries.

The new 'HAL' era poses many issues such as ethical issues and imparting truly 'human characteristics onto machines. To do this the designers have to rethinking what it means to be human and what it means to empower machines to make human-like decisions, especially those that directly affect humans. - like in 2001

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave Bowman: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.

IBM has said that they intend to commercialize Watson to provide a new type of intelligent question and answering systems in for medicine, business, education and various other applications. Virtually any job that now involves answering questions and conducting commercial transactions by telephone could soon be at risk. The most likely jobs at risk are those in the call centres. A good model of how profound these changes could be is how quickly ATM.’s replaced human bank tellers.

It is obvious that anyone who has spent time waiting on hold for technical support, or trying to change an airline reservation, may welcome that day. However, there is also a growing unease about the advances in natural language understanding that are being heralded in systems like Watson being developed by IBM.

Watson type systems also have potential for Intelligence Augmentation (IA) - systems that extend the capability of the human mind. The smartphone is not just a navigation and communication tool. It has rapidly become an almost seamless extension of almost all of our senses. It is not only a reference tool but is quickly evolving to be an “information concierge” that can respond to typed or spoken queries or simply volunteer advice.

Further advances in both AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IA (Intelligence Augmentation) will increasingly confront the engineers and computer scientists with clear choices about how technology is used and the social issues that arise from its design and use. There needs to be an explicit social contract between the engineers and society.

There are several interesting examples of AI that you can see and try:

  • Spotlight, a popular feature on Google’s news site is updated regularly with news and in-depth articles of lasting value. The stories shown are selected automatically by their software algorithms. They include opinion pieces, investigative journalism, special-interest articles, and other stories of enduring appeal.
  • Splotchy is an artificial intelligence online robot, which seem to have amazingly intelligence sometimes. He is sometimes a little cranky sometimes but mostly is good and polite and will even respond to flirting if he is in a good mood.
  • Zabaware has developed systems that aim let you communicate with your computer via conversation using artificial intelligence technology. These systems use speech recognition software and real-time animation. The technology will allow you computer to understand English language and speak intelligent replies back to you. These conversational systems are available in various forms that are commonly known as chat bots. You can start a conversation with your computer about anything you like and you can expect intelligent responses.
  • The Personality Forge, an another example of an advanced AI platform for creating chat bots. The Personality Forge's AI Engine integrates emotions, memories, and a vast database of hundreds of thousands of words. It can build sentence structures and has pattern-matching capabilities. It includes a unique scripting language called AIScript. It is free and you can create your own artificial intelligence personalities, which can chat with real people and with other chat bots using a flash interface. Personality Forge chat bots can form emotional relationships and even memories about both real people and other bots. Transcripts of every bot's conversations are kept so you can read what your bot has said, and see their emotional relationships with other people and other bots. With their intuitive interface, you do not need any programming skills or detailed knowledge of artificial intelligence to create realistic and entertaining chat bots.
  • A.L.I.C.E. (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) is another free, award-winning AI chat robot system.


IBM's Watson, the computer worked on by University of Massachusetts scientists being pitted against "Jeopardy" champions, prevailed on the first night.

© janderson99-HubPages

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson


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