Ray Kurzweil is building a chatbot for Google

Ray Kurzweil is building a chatbot for Google.
“He was asked when he thought people would be able to have meaningful conversations with artificial intelligence, one that might fool you into thinking you were conversing with a human being. “That’s very relevant to what I’m doing at Google,” Kurzweil said. “My team, among other things, is working on chatbots. We expect to release some chatbots you can talk to later this year.”

I have some questions.

  • Will my chatbot be able to suggest topics?
  • Could my chatbot ‘watch’ my YouTube channel? It could ‘learn’ a lot about me and my interests if that’s possible. Same for my flickr photo stream
  • Could I configure a sense of humor? Irony? Smartass-ishness?
  • Could I make it location aware? (“I see you didn’t go to the Coffee Zone today, Steve. Decide to stay home with the pups?)
  • My calendar (“Good morning, Steve. I see it’s been a month since you picked up Hatti’s anti-itch meds. Shall I email the vet to refill?”)
  • Can I instruct my chatbot to let me know when I start sounding whiney?
  • Can my chatbot follow what I’m reading and discuss it with me? Or offer to introduce me to others reading the same book?
  • If, after a year, I decide I’m uncomfortable having a chatbot ‘relationship,’ will there be an ethical consideration in terminating it?

I wonder if he chose to refer to this as a “chatbot” because it’s a less threatening term (and Artificial Intelligence). I have a hunch it will be (or eventually become) something far more.

Physicists to test if universe a computer simulation

Three of my favorite Smart People (Kevin Kelly, Ray Kurzweil and Scott Adams) have convinced me there will be a post-human stage in our evolution. And Scott Adams makes a compelling (to me) case for the computer simulation theory.

“The theory basically goes that any civilisation which could evolve to a ‘post-human’ stage would almost certainly learn to run simulations on the scale of a universe. And that given the size of reality – billions of worlds, around billions of suns – it is fairly likely that if this is possible, it has already happened. And if it has? Well, then the statistical likelihood is that we’re located somewhere in that chain of simulations within simulations. The alternative – that we’re the first civilisation, in the first universe – is virtually absurd.”

Before you dismiss this theory, compare it to this popular creation narrative:

“It is made up of two parts, roughly equivalent to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. In the first part, Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 2:3, Elohim, the generic Hebrew word for God, creates the world in six days, then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the seventh day. God creates by spoken command (“Let there be…”), suggesting a comparison with a king, who has only to speak for things to happen, and names the elements of the cosmos as he creates them, in keeping with the common ancient concept that things did not really exist until they had been named. In the second, Genesis 2:4–24, Yahweh, the personal name of God, shapes the first man from dust, places him in the Garden of Eden, and breathes his own breath into the man who thus becomes נֶפֶש nephesh, a living being; man shares nephesh with all creatures, but only of man is this life-giving act of God described. The man names the animals, signifying his authority within God’s creation, and God creates the first woman, Eve, from the man’s body.”

What Technology Wants

I finished Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants this weekend. I rank this book up there with Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near in terms of importance. I won’t attempt to review the book, since I’m still try to absorb some of the mind-bending ideas. Like the evolution of technology:

Here are a few ideas that got some highlighter:

Technology and life must share some fundamental essence. … However you define life, its essence does not reside in material forms like DNA, tissue, or flesh, but in the intangible organization of the energy and information contained in those material forms. Both life and technology seem to be based on immaterial flows of information.” – pg 10

Technium – The greater, global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us. – pg 11

How many neurons do you need to have a mind? – pg 13

We can think of technology as our extended body. – pg 44

Ideas fly in flocks. To hold one idea in mind means to hold a cloud of them. – pg 45

Even the tiniest disposable item with a bar code shares a thin sliver of our collective mind. – pg 48

For most humans, for most of time, real change was rarely experienced. – pg 73

“What was impossible billions of years ago becomes increasingly inevitable.” — Simon Conway pg 126

There is only one life. All life today is descended along an unbroken line of duplication from one ancient molecule that worked inside one primeval cell that worked. – pg 127

Continue reading

What do you believe?

Our world (if you are a one-world sort of person) view is shaped by many things. Genetics, early programming, people we meet and experiences we have along the way. And –for me– ideas I encounter in the books I read.

It’s unlikely anyone is going to ask me what I believe (for which I am grateful) but I’m ready. Just in case. The answer(s) –if it is anywhere– is somewhere in these books.

  • The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
  • Buddha’s Brain – Rick Hansen
  • His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  • Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul – Deepak Chopra
  • God Theory – Bernard Haisch
  • Quantum Eniga: Physics Encounters Consciousness
  • Biocentrism – Robert Lanza
  • The Ultimate Happiness Prescription – Deepak Chopra
  • Jesus Interrupted – Bart D. Ehrman
  • God’s Debris – Scott Adams
  • The Singularity Is Near – Ray Kurzweil
  • The Voice of Knowledge – Don Miguel Ruiz
  • This Perfect Day – Ira Levin
  • Peace Is the Way – Deepak Chopra
  • The Book of Secrets – Deepak Chopra
  • Life After Death – Deepak Chopra
  • The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
  • The Religion War – Scott Adams
  • The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz

As I think about this, it occurs to me that understanding why might be as important as what we believe.

Hard cover virtual reality

While we wait for the virtual reality promised by Ray Kurzweil (and others), I’ll make do with with immersing myself in good books. I have two that should get me to Seattle and back:

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler

Mortimer Tate was an insurance salesman on the verge of a nasty divorce when he holed up in a mountain cave in Tennessee and rode out the end of the world. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse begins nine years later, when he emerges into a bizarre landscape filled with hollow reminders of an America that no longer exists.

Hit and Run by Lawrence Block

Keller’s a hit man. For years now he’s had places to go and people to kill. But enough is enough. He’s got money in the bank and just one last job standing between him and retirement. In Des Moines, Keller stalks his designated target and waits for the client to give him the go-ahead. And one fine morning he’s picking out stamps for his collection at a shop in Urbandale when somebody guns down the charismatic governor of Ohio.

I’m not familiar with Gischler but he’s got a knack for titles. I’m a long-time fan of Lawrence Block. If you’ve never been on one of Keller’s hit jobs, you’re in for a treat.

Computer animation technology

In a day or two, I might read that this was a hoax. If not, this is… I don’t know. Amazing falls a little short. Emily is a computer graphic illustration produced using a new modeling technology that enables the minute details of a facial expression to be captured and recreated. For the first minute and a half of the video, before they revert back to the source (the real actress), Emily’s face is being simulated by the technology. [via Podcasting News]

I’m nearing the end of Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near and this bit of CGI magic brought the following paragraph to mind:

“The Web will provide a panoply of virtual environments to explore. Some will be re-creations of real places; others will be fanciful environments that have no counterpart in the physical world. Some, indeed, would be impossible, perhaps because the violate the laws of physics. We will be able to visit these virtual places and have any kind of interaction with other real, as well as simulated, people (of course, ultimately there won’t be a clear distinction between the two), ranging from business negotiations to sensual encounters. “Virtual-reality environment designer” will be a new job description and a new art form.” (pg.314)

And if you missed my chat with Michale Spooner, give it a listen and think about the job description, Virtual Reality Designer. [Michael, it’s time to talk about your CGI work and what lies ahead.]

Recommended reading: Idoru by William Gibson.

“Early in the next century, Lo/Rez is more than just the hottest rock band in the world, it’s a business. The enigmatic guru-like guitar hero Rez has announced that he will marry Rei Toei, the most popular musician in Japan. But she doesn’t exist. She’s an idoru, a massively-complex computer program designed to create and perform music in concerts.”

Combine the AI predicted by Kurzweil with CGI about 10,000 times better than the example above and… and I don’t know what. But Kurzweil thinks he does. I plan to live long enough to experience this. Whew! I’m all tingley.

The technological singularity

The technological singularity is a theoretical future point of unprecedented technological progress, caused in part by the ability of machines to improve themselves using artificial intelligence. [Wikipedia]

SingularitybookI’m clawing my way through Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near. It’s not an easy read. Lots of charts and graphs and stuff I skipped in college. But it’s a wonderfully optimistic view of the near future.

“I set the date for the Singularity –representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability– as 2045. The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will be one billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.”

“Despite the clear preponderance of nonbiological intelligence by the mid-2040s, ours will still be a human civilization. We will transcend biology, but not our humanity.”

I’m only about a third of the way through the book but I think “transcend biology” might be good news if I’m still around in 2045. I’ll be 93 and in serious need of a tune-up.

I originally posted this on 8/13/08 and re-post here with some of my a-ha’s.

Continue reading