Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bit by bit

Today, a cornucopia of computing consequences ...

A calculating mind ...?
Last June I posted ("Less than meets the AI") about the program that "passed" the Turing test, and that this milestone seemed more a demonstration of natural gullibility than of artificial intelligence. Hence, I was pleased to read about an improved -- and more meaningful -- proposed test of a program's intelligence. See (from IEEE Spectrum), "Can Winograd Schemas Replace Turing Test for Defining Human-Level AI?"

Conceptually, the Turing Test is still valid, but we need a better practical process for testing artificial intelligence. A new AI contest, sponsored by Nuance Communications and CommonsenseReasoning.org, is offering a US $25,000 prize to an AI that can successfully answer what are called Winograd schemas, named after Terry Winograd, a professor of computer science at Stanford University.

Here's an example of one:

The trophy doesn't fit in the brown suitcase because it is too big. What is too big?

The trophy, obviously. But it's not obvious. It's obvious to us, because we know all about trophies and suitcases. We don't even have to "think" about it; it's almost intuitive. But for a computer program, it's unclear what the "it" refers to. To be successful at answering a question like this, an artificial intelligence must have some background knowledge and the ability to reason.

From the Department of It Ought to Be Obvious, see (from Forbes), "It Does Matter That The White House Cybersecurity Czar Lacks Technical Chops." The author, Robert Lee, describes himself as "an active-duty Air Force Cyber Warfare Operations Officer and a cofounder of Dragos Security."

Of course the Czar-dine at issue opines that it's fine he doesn't have a cyber-security background. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised then (offered by PC World) that "Botnet malware discovered on Healthcare.gov server."

Searching government networks for vulnerable servers, the hacker was able to break-in because the server's default password had not been changed, according to The Wall Street Journal. Even the U.S. government, it seems, can do with a refresher course every now and then on security.  

Alan Turing 100th birthday doodle
Have you followed the debate over the so-called right to be forgotten, under which search engines can be ordered to not serve up deleterious information? There are exceptions, of course. One such exception applies to the famous -- only who counts as famous? Are you famous? Check out (from the Washington Post) -- and then find out --  "Does Google think you’re famous?"

Do you lie awake nights wondering whether killer robots are after you? Then (a) stop eating pizza and tacos near bedtime and (b) check out (again from the Washington Post), "The SkyNet factor: Four myths about science fiction and the killer robot debate." Then you'll have good cause (besides indigestion) for your insomnia ....

Then there's the new iWatch. Talk about a solution in search of a problem. See (from Mashable), "Sharing Your Heartbeat Over Apple Watch Is the New Sexting."

Let's end this post on an upbeat note. Yahoo News offers us computing-centric product news that (unlike the iWatch) I find to be seriously clever. See "Indian start-up launches shoes that show you the way."

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