Could 'Her' happen?

App Dev and SOA

by Claire Vanner| 26 February 2014

Oscar nominated film premise around artificial intelligence not as far off as some people may think.

The Oscar awards ceremony takes place on Sunday night, and Best Picture nominee, Her has some people wondering if the movie is more science fiction or reality.

The story centres on a man who falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system (OS) with a female voice and personality.

While this may seem like science-fiction and a long way off, we asked Jackie Fenn, Gartner vice president, for her thoughts on artificial intelligence and if this is the direction artificial intelligence is heading.

Fenn said the day when your computer will know you better than any human is not as far off as you may think.

Is an artificially intelligent operating system like the one depicted in the film a possibility?

Many of the capabilities of Samantha, the intelligent OS in the movie Her, are already here, including speech and natural language recognition, and some conversational abilities. Much of the recent progress is due to advances in machine learning, whereby the system doesn't have to be pre-programmed for every eventuality, but learns from experience.

There are already virtual personalities such as Cleverbot that learn from their discussions with humans, with impressive results as shown by this YouTube video of two Cleverbots conversing.

Once the computer can get smarter from new information, there's nothing to stop it becoming as good as, and eventually better than, a person doing the same task. So what's to stop an OS from becoming a better companion than most humans? The more it interacts with you, the more it learns about what pleases you and what doesn't, until it knows you better than you know yourself.

Humour and creativity will be among the more challenging areas for artificial intelligence, but even here researchers are experimenting with clever algorithms and deep learning. If a computer can learn what makes people laugh - and more importantly what makes you laugh - based on watching and analysing over time, there is no theoretical reason that a computer couldn't eventually display and respond to humour.

Once an artificially intelligent computer achieves these milestones, we get to the thorny challenge of consciousness and will. If an artificial intelligence computer exhibits its own unique goals and emotions in an appropriate way, how will we ever tell if it is conscious or not? Even if our philosophy of life doesn't allow us to credit an inanimate object with consciousness (although what if the computer or robot was built from live tissue?), it may not matter.


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