Within ten years, computers will have common sense, logic, natural conversation and even be able to flirt with you, according to Professor Geoff Hinton.
Hinton is a Google employee who develops AI systems. He says that Google is working on “thought vectors”, a relatively new algorithm that encodes thoughts as sequences of numbers. The software would have what he described as “common sense”. His ideas are controversial; some folks argue that thoughts cannot be “read” and converted to numbers. “There’ll be a lot of people who argue against it, who say you can’t capture a thought like that, but there’s no reason why not. I think you can capture a thought by a vector,” he said.
Two of the main challenges in artificial intelligence are overcoming the “robot voice” and the ability to make leaps in logic like the human brain does. Hinton describes a future, within the next ten years, in which people will “chat” with their computers, not as voice to text or voice commands, but as if speaking with another person, rather like the movie “Her”. He does not think that concept is far-fetched and thinks becoming good friends with a computer is quite natural.
At Stanford University a scientist, Richard Socher, has developed a program that recognizes human “sentiment”. He taught the program 12,000 sentences from a website that reviews films. The initial reason for developing these “thought vectors” was allegedly to improve translation software. Anyone who has clicked the “see translation” button on Facebook no doubt understands that huge strides are required to make that an effective program. Sometimes one can get a rough idea of what the translation is supposed to be, but most of the time the results are simply nonsense. The reason it doesn’t work very well is that the programs use dictionaries to translate individual words, and are not able to effectively translate sentence structure. Thought vectors would extract something closer to the actual meaning of the sentence.
Hinton says that it will be difficult to teach the program irony. He said, “Irony is going to be hard to get. You have to be master of the literal first. But then, Americans don’t get irony either.” He believes that a “flirtation” program, however, would be quite simple to construct and could even be taught borderline politically incorrect things to say. The idea here is that computer programs can learn by methods other than a set of inflexible rules.
American entrepreneur Elon Musk believes these technologies are dangerous and humanity’s greatest existential threat. “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year time frame. Ten years at most,” he warned.
Hinton responded by saying that he was more scared of autonomous killer robots than talking computers.