Artificial Intelligence and the rise of the chatterbots

Cambridge Analytica has come and gone and New Zealand has now been offered a report from the AI Forum called “Shaping a Future New Zealand”.?Artificial Intelligence it seems is to be part of the New Zealand scene.

The radio advised me that no applications for the Chief Technology Officer were deemed to be suitable enough to make an appointment so I expect our latest Artificial Intelligence is not off to a great start.

Skimming through the report I found some answers. A survey on page 81 found that 44% considered “education a key barrier to Artificial Intelligence adoption ” which surprised me. The expanded view is that ” traditional education providers are not yet providing the skills and training required to develop [Artificial Intelligence] excellence”

While I cannot speak for all of New Zealand I do know that Otago University?has been studying? Artificial Intelligence to post-graduate level for decades.

China is overtaking USA in this area because Trump decreased funding by ten percent to $175 million (see page 33 of the report.)

Artificial Intelligence is with us now. We already use some “intelligent” machines almost every day. If you use Siri (iPhone), Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft) or Google Assistant, you are using Artificial Intelligence on computers to enhance your own. On-line you can find legions of Artificial Intelligence “chatbots” with one of the latest being Oscar (for AirNZ).


I put Alexa on my Android phone and she insisted on speaking in Japanese so I got rid of her.

Other bots I have encountered include Sophia, the first robot citizen of Saudi Arabia. Eager to please, Sophia is quite happy to “destroy humans”. No outrage from the Imams about Sophia’s lack of hijab so perhaps her subservient attitude is enough.

The NewYorker weighs in with more background and raises theological questions. One discussion on Quora is more direct and includes this comment.?Quote:

[…] It would seem that granting citizenship to a robot is some kind of PR stunt that is intended to figuratively poke a finger in the eye of the Wahhabi fundamentalists while, at the same time make Saudi Arabia appear to be more progressive than it actually is.[…] End of quote.

For me, Sophia is the end result of a Henry Higgins drive to make something that you can converse with. In Pygmalion, he tried with cockney girl Eliza Doolittle with comic success. Now on the Internet, you can find the code to create your own “Eliza” chatterbot. The first “Eliza” created by Joseph Weizenbaum ran a “Doctor” script which began with “My name is Eliza. How can I help you?” A downloadable version of Eliza can be found here.

After downloading you could alter responses by editing html and javascript within the page. An example conversation running entirely on my computer is here.

Consider the implications of altering “Eliza” responses. Eliza can offer whatever data she is given and exemplifies the need for a moral watch over the algorithms, coding and data used in all Artificial Intelligence applications. Quote:

[…] Some of ELIZA?s responses were so convincing that Weizenbaum and several others have anecdotes of users becoming emotionally attached to the program, occasionally forgetting that they were conversing with a computer. Weizenbaum?s own secretary reportedly asked Weizenbaum to leave the room so that she and ELIZA could have a real conversation. Weizenbaum was surprised by this, later writing, ?I had not realized? that extremely short exposures to a relatively simple computer program could induce powerful delusional thinking in quite normal people.?[…] End of quote.

You have been warned! This branch of Artificial Intelligence (formally called “natural language processing”) is perhaps the easiest to grasp. The hard stuff is in the branch with the broad label “neural networks”