Only this morning I was writing about new developments planned by Facebook that would offer simultaneous translation so that people who had no common language could speak to each other. [ http://greenteeth.blog.co.uk/2013/08/15/new-from-the-digital-cockfish-the-death-of-language-16314062/ ] The post is very British humour so I only post the link for information. Such things are pipe dreams, the nerdy tech heads get very enthusiastic about new technological advances and forget to think through the wider implications. Which is why computer time scientists were so certain thirty years ago that computers would 'think like humans within five years' and three decades later we are no nearer to achieving that.
It is quite amusing to observe however that the latest burbling about Artificial Intelligence being just around the corner still completely ignore the fact that we have very little idea of how we as humans formulate our thoughts. It is certainly not achieved by parsing huge amounts of data very quickly and matching strings of binary digits.
As I wrote some in an article posted on triond.com and published on their computersight pages [ http://computersight.com/hardware/ibm-plan-to-develop-computer-chips-to-replicate-the-human-brain/#ixzz2c37fnSVO ]
The problem with machines is they can only do as instructed. Thus they apply linear projections to random, flexible, non linear systems. Logic gates, arrays of which do all the business in a computer, are set to detect whether certain conditions are “true”. They do this by detecting three states, high (+), low ( – ) and the third which most people overlook, nul – the state of nothingness. Nul is kept free of charge by being clamped to earth and is necessary so that the gate has something against which to compare the other two. The processor then shifts data or makes decisions by testing if a number of conditions are true. These are:
NOT, AND, NAND, OR, NOR, EX-OR and EX-NOR.
Avoiding technical jargon if we assume A and B are inputs and O the output the symbol <> (greater than or less than) means not equal to,, n is used to indicate a binary digit this is a very simple explanation of the logic:
(NOT gate) If A=n NOT true then O true
(AND gate) If A=n true AND B=n true then O=true
(NAND gate) If A<>n NOT true AND B=n NOT true then O true
(OR gate) If either A=n true OR B=n true then O true
(NOR gate) If A<>n true OR B<>n true then O=true
(Ex OR gate) If A=n true OR B=n true then O true but if A and B = n then O not true
Those tests are performed by setting switches, long ago when I was a young programmer – operator by physically setting rocker (bootstrap) switches, now they are set in software.
So, armed with that knowledge can you really foresee a computer being able to decide whether to have chocolate cake or apple pie?"
So what's it to be, Chocolate Cake or Apple Pie, or a flapjack, scones with cream and jam, gateau, Viennese Pastry? Given what I have written above can a computer ever decide for you? Or more seriously, BMW or Lexus, the blonde or the brunette, the athlete or the nerdy intellectual billionaire, an island holiday in the Caribbean or Greece? The latest Dan Brown pot boiler or a book on Quantum Physics to read on the flight? A career change or plod on in the same old job? Run away or stand and fight, to get down to the most primitive self preservation level?
Any thoughts of making computers think like us should be forgotten and to a great extent has been it seems. The main thrust of replacing human intelligence with computer CPU , memory and software now rests on making humans think like computers. To that end technology forms like Facebook are determined to make us so dependent on their technology we have to live our entire lives online and thus grab control of the information that informs us, our relationships, leisure activities, and now our conversations, while another big new idea that should be resisted completely is the 'always on' smartphone that listens to conversations, infers circumstances and mood from background noise and reports everything, even your offline conversations back to a data centre.
QUOTE from Technology Review [ http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517801/the-era-of-ubiquitous-listening-dawns/ ]:
The Moto X, the new smartphone from Google’s Motorola Mobility, might be remembered best someday for helping to usher in the era of ubiquitous listening.
Unlike earlier phones, the Moto X includes two low-power chips whose only function is to process data from a microphone and other sensors—without tapping the main processor and draining the battery. This is a big endorsement of the idea that phones could serve you better if they did more to figure out what is going on (see “Motorola Reveals First Google-Era Phone”). For instance, you might say “OK Google Now” to activate Google’s intelligent assistant software, rather than having to first tap the screen or press buttons to get an audio-processing function up and running.
This brings us closer to having phones that continually monitor their auditory environment to detect the phone owner’s voice, discern what room or other setting the phone is in, or pick up other clues from background noise. Such capacities make it possible for software to detect your moods, know when you are talking and not to disturb you, and perhaps someday keep a running record of everything you hear.
“Devices of the future will be increasingly aware of the user’s current context, goals, and needs, will become proactive—taking initiative to present relevant information,” says Pattie Maes, a professor at MIT’s Media Lab. “Their use will become more integrated in our daily behaviors, becoming almost an extension of ourselves. The Moto X is definitely a step in that direction.”
And what about detecting mood etc.? In the same article you can read that researchers at Cornell University, have developed software which they claim is able to detect whether you are talking faster than normal, or other changes in pitch or frequency that might suggest excitement or stress.
In the same way analysis of background sounds could allow the phone to work out where it is, says Vlad Sejnoha, the chief technology officer of Nuance Communications, which develops voice-recognition technologies.sor (Actually he's talking bollocks, digitizing sound is a field I have some expertise in and no matter how powerful a processor how much memory is available to introduce extra parameters, there is no way to tell traffic noise in one city from another without visuals, so unless you are somewhere like an airport or hospital that has regular audio announcements the phone's location could only be identified from meta data which is what we do now;) Practicalities never deter a nerd however. Sejnoha says, “I’m sure you’ve been in situation where someone has a smartphone in their pocket and suddenly a little voice emerges from the pocket, asking how they can be helped,” he says. "That’s caused when an assistance app like Apple’s Siri is accidentally triggered." Well no I haven't actually, nobody I know would have such an irritating app., my friends are intelligent people who don't need a smart phone app to remind them to wipe their arse.
While such technology is the wet dream of government spying agencies like the NSA and authoritarian politicians, it shows how far out of touch with reality the silicon valley nerds are. Really it is a very small and unrepresentative fraction of the population who are begin conned into making themselves as dependent on technology as a baby on its mother. As for the rest of us, well it will not take long to work out how to operate the off switch on that eavesdropping smart phone. And if the off switch can be overridden from a data centre, how had is it to leave the damned thing locked in a drawer at home or in the glove compartment of the car.
The nerds may want to be half human, half machine, the rest of us have lives.
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Science and Technology Menu
CREATIVE COMMONS: attrib, no comm, no dervs.
n recent years the scientific community have been clamouring to tell us thy are close to mapping the workings of the human brain and understanding the workings of the human mind. now I recall while recovering from a brain haemorrhage fifteen years ago being told by a very good doctor that medical science was only just starting to understand that the brain (a physical organ) and the mind (a mystery) were very different things. And I have neither read nor heard anything since to make me think he was wrong.
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