Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Aha ... so, that is what it means to be human!

Even two days ago I wrote in this post:
In so many different ways, as many posts would have revealed, I am trying my best to understand what it means to be human, and what my place is in this universe whose vastness I cannot even begin to imagine
I had no idea that the answer would come so soon.

So, what does it mean to be human?
What makes us human? Our innate curiosity? Our mastery of language? Or is it our astounding ability to be complete assholes to one another?
I bet you are thinking, "WTF!"  Yes?


That is from the same blog that enriched your life and mine with a wonderfully colorful word, "piss-proud.  Remember that?  Holy shit, you have forgotten that already? ;)

"[Our] astounding ability to be complete assholes to one another" is, according to that awesome post on "artificial belligerence," where we humans outsmart the machines.  So, this is a wonderful combination: we begin to understand what it is to be human and we also figure out ways in which we can beat the shit out of our computer overlords.  If they shit, that is! ;)
slang and swearing have proven tricky for artificial intelligence and natural language processing researchers to implement on a machine. Although curse words make up only 0.5% to 0.7% of all of the words we speak, they are rich in nuance and play a variety of roles. Said IBM research scientist Eric Brown, “As humans, we don’t realize just how ambiguous our communication is.”
Aha!  A new twist to that asshole theory.

BTW, speaking of assholes, a friend had posted this on Facebook:


Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah:
In 2011 Brown’s team tried to train Jeopardy-winning supercomputer Watson to use more natural-sounding vocabulary by feeding it the entirety of Urban Dictionary. The result was a foul-mouthed machine that learned terms such as “ass hat” and “front butt” but didn’t understand when it was appropriate to use them, once responding to a researcher’s query with “bullshit!” Watson’s failure to distinguish between profanity and polite language meant that Brown’s team had to develop filters to screen out the profanity and eventually ended up wiping Urban Dictionary’s entries from Watson’s memory.
See, we have some time left before those machines can begin to cuss like us humans.
When it comes to language, especially the pragmatics of strong language, artificial intelligence hasn’t caught up with humans yet. But with so many AI researchers attacking the problem from different angles, a future with realistic potty-mouthed sass-bots that can verbally spar with the best (worst?) of us may not be that far away.
Sometime in the near future, a HAL won't be polite; remember HAL's polite aggression with "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that"?  In the future, it might even use Dick Cheney's language and say "Go fuck yourself, Dave."  Laugh now, but that day is coming ;)


Anne in Salem said...

So a lack of vulgar language won't be a clue to which articles are written by automated narrative generating robots for long, eh? As a non-swearer (except for a very special term reserved for one specific person), I don't see any reason to teach the robots to swear or use potty-mouth terminology. The English language is a lovely tool, and there are some absolutely stunning put-downs and expressions that sting and/or describe better than any vulgarity. Just ask Oscar Wilde, among others, from what I have read.

Sriram Khé said...

Interesting, right, that this ability to use words that can serve as curse words is strictly human imagination. An imagination skill that will take a long time for artificial intelligence to gain. Until then, we are safe. And, the best thing for me is that I will be long gone way, way before that ;)

Ramesh said...

Ha Ha. Trust you to dig up something like this.

Well, I don't think computers would master the nuances and expressions of human language for a quite a while yet. The day when a computer can write a PG Wodehouse masterpiece is a long way away. And since you so often and loudly remind us that we are in the last one third of our lives - "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" :)

Sriram Khé said...

I don't know about you, but I am hoping that I am in my final third. So, yes, at the end of it all, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" ... which is nothing but a variation of what I tell students--I tell them it is their problem and not mine because I will be dead by then ;)