Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Unimproved Ends

Meet Eugene Goostman.

He isn't real, but he has convinced 33% of people who interacted with him that he's really a 13 year old Ukrainian. The Turing Test has been past apparently. Try it for yourself here.

Does it matter? I'm not so sure. After all, a computer that convinces you it is human is still just a computer. Indeed, the 'news' that computers are better than humans at some things isn't all that surprising. A hammer is better for putting nails in the wall than my fist. That's why we make tools: to help us do more than we could without them.

Sure, IBM's Watson can beat any human at the TV game Jeopardy, but really, so what? I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau's observation that:
"Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at."
With socialbots convincing thousands of twitter users to follow them, I can't help feeling that Thoreau would be even less enamored with our own age than he was with his own. We are desperately in need of improved ends, and Eugene doesn't have the answer.

1 comment:

  1. In fairness I think some people wouldn't pass the Turing test, I'm an engineer and my social skills are appalling.

    Oh and that should be Passed, not past (told you they are appalling)


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