Computers Come of Age?
There was a time when it seemed that an obligatory item in the programming of every science-fiction convention was a panel on Artificial Intelligence. Probably as a result of having written a novel on the subject, The Two Faces of Tomorrow, and having worked in the computer industry for a number of years, I was inevitably included on them. The format and content of these panels became depressingly predictable, so at one convention I attended (I forget which), I suggested we made the topic "Artificial Stupidity" instead. The suggestion was followed, and the panel turned out to be a resounding, hilarious success.
It now seems that, in the best S.F. tradition, it may have been predictive. Computer scientist Arthur Boran, head of an organization called the National Artificial Stupidity Association [NASA!], explains: "There's been a lot of attention given to developments in artificial intelligence, but relatively little emphasis on stupidity. Dumbness is, in many ways, a far more difficult quality to synthesize than intelligence. Human beings have a remarkable capacity for fallacious reasoning, illogical conclusions, and plain ignorance -- traits that are unique to them and alien to conventionally programmed computers. My goal is to generate a program that can accurately simulate the full variety of human stupidities."
A sample of the performance achieved, which caused great excitement. When told, "Give me the sum of every odd number between zero and ten," the computer's unexpected response was 157. Pressed for an explanation, in printed:
THE TERM "ODD NUMBER" IS AMBIGUOUS. I THEREFORE CHOOSE TO INTERPRET IT AS MEANING "A NUMBER THAT IS FUNNY LOOKING." USING MY AESTHETIC JUDGEMENT, I PICKED THE NUMBERS 3, 8, AND 147, ADDED THEM UP, AND GOT 157.
Then there was an addendum: I GUESS I MEANT 158.
Followed shortly thereafter by: 147 IS MORE THAN 10, ISN'T IT? SORRY
(This) NASA's site is at www3.sympatico.ca/sarrazip/nasa.html
I suppose the next inevitable question -- if the panels that I sat on were anything to go by -- will be how long it will take to achieve full, all-round human capability. A daunting challenge indeed. A Turing Test to decide should be quite entertaining. (I've never understood how a Turing Test declared to be successful would distinguish between a smart computer and a not-so-smart judge.)