Wednesday, 4 April 2012

AI and language

BBC2 has dumbed down a lot in the last decade or so, shifting arts and music programmes to BBC4 and replacing them with cookery and interior design shows.  But it still manages to broadcast some thought-provoking stuff too and last night's episode of the science series Horizon was certainly that.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has still to reach the level where robots can think like humans do but we are further down that road than many people - including myself - had realised. By far the best bit was at the end when presenter Marcus Du Sautoy went to a lab where two robots are teaching each other a new language they have invented, making up words for movements, shapes and colours.  To paraphrase the 60's Chicago DJ Pervis Spann talking about people who don't like blues, if you weren't touched by the scene you've got a hole in your soul. Above all, it reminded me of one of my favourite films from childhood, Silent Running, in which hippy ecologist Bruce Dern teaches robots Huey and Dewey to garden on board a space ship containing the environmentally devastated Earth's last forest before killing his crewmates and then himself, blasting the forest on a journey into deep space.

One of the pioneers of AI, Seymour Papert, was incidentally a member of the Socialist Review Group when he lived in Britain in the 50's.

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