compulsory reading, oddly enough

Closing The Gap?

There were times when a lot of people on this planet thought that human beings would have all been replaced by intelligent robots by the year 2000. But the operating system you are using right now as well as state of the art research in artificial intelligence (check these MIT media lab resources, for instance) are both demonstrating clearly enough that the complexity of human intelligence has not yet been sufficiently understood in order to technically reproduce it or even go beyond our biological limitations.

Some researchers doubt we will ever be able to understand just why we ‘understand’. And the advances that have been made promptly led to even more complicated ethical questions. Steven Spielberg’s A.I. may not be his masterpiece, but it is a film posing a useful question about the interrelation of artificial life and intelligence. However, those predicting a world run by intelligent robots and androids have been proven wrong until today. The man-machine gap is still huge – usually.

One interesting thing about robots and artificial intelligence is that those creating them always aim at making their machines ‘think’ better, faster and more human-like in order to close the gap with the supposedly superior human brain from “below”. And, usually, this approach clearly makes sense.

But there could be exceptions to that rule. Could the gap be possibly closed from “above”? This is what – I suppose – the producers of the “talking presidents” dolls are intending to demonstrate with their recent release of a talking “George W. Bush – Doll” which is able to utter 17 different phrases. I wonder how many people (certainly in Europe) believe this is the actual number of distinct statements made by the original.

To those in doubt and calculating, it is not. I listened to the samples on their website. And, as just one example, his remarkable confusion of “devaluation” and “deflation” is missing, just as a lot of other famous Bushims…

And while the “patriotic” selection of soundbites (“I come from Texas.”) thus proves that the leader of the free world is not entirely replacable by a 12.5″ doll with a loudspeaker worth US$ 29,99 ex. shipping – which is reassuring to a certain extent – I am still wondering just why I keep thinking the doll actually does have some gap-closing character…