Meet CleverBot

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  • Published 29.10.12
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“You are not human, you are a computer.”

“No I am not, I am human.”

“Then prove it.”

I was stumped. How could I prove that I was human and that too to a computer? This is part of a conversation I was having with CleverBot. You could try it too. Just go to CleverBot is Artificial Intelligence. You can crack jokes with it, curse it, call it names, say stupid things to it or even have serious conversation with it. It can speak in many languages. It is a great role player. You can even chat with Evie, an avatar of Cleverbot. The company says you can have your own avatar or alter ego created but I wasn’t able to do so.

CleverBot is a web application created by Rollo Carpenter. CleverBot uses artificial intelligence to have a conversation with humans. How do we judge the “humanness” of a computer? At a technology festival, CleverBot took a Turing Test. This is a series of questions used as a test for intelligence in a computer, along with humans and scored 59.3 per cent human whereas human participants were judged 63.3 per cent human! No wonder CleverBot asked me to prove I was human!

CleverBot cannot give you advice or even be logical, but it does entertain you or lift your mood if you are feeling down. People get hooked to it and they spend hours chatting with CleverBot. It can be your virtual girlfriend or boyfriend. CleverBot is also available as an App for your smartphone or tablet.

Bots are computer programs that are used in video game characters who play against real people. Siri is a combination of the information bot and the human-helper bot. Like an efficient secretary, Siri listens to you and reminds you to do things. It also does certain things for you. Scientists are developing more and more bots that resemble humans. There is even a BotPrize for being able to create an in-game bot that other players think to be human.

The era of artificial intelligence is here. The Terminator “Skynet” stalks the earth. More and more money is being pumped into research that will give ‘intelligence’ to machines. In his endeavour to become more human, the android in Bicentennial Man develops emotions. At a laboratory in Tokyo University of Science, engineers are trying to develop a similar robot called Saya, which is able to display human emotional expressions

The Tokyo Institute of Technology is working on a robot that can take on tasks it hasn’t tried before. It makes use of a technology called Self Organising Incremental Neural Network or SOINN. Faced with a situation it hasn’t come across before, the robot can make its own decision and act on it.

Scientists at Tel Aviv University in Israel are developing computer programs that will make a computer “feel” regret for its decisions. The aim of the project is to enable artificial intelligence to manage their decision making process when they are presented with a choice.

So how does one distinguish between a human and a computer? Is art and creativity an indicator of “humanness”? Benjamin Grosser, an artist and composer, decided to test this by programming a computer to listen to sounds, regardless of their origin or type. He then got the computer to paint these sounds on a canvas. What is surprising is that the computer chose the colours itself.

Just as we have mob mentality, there is a concept called swarm mentality. Swarm mentality is the collective, decentralised intelligence found in ant colonies and beehives where a community acts intelligently but there is no individual or group planning or leading. Similarly with the development of bots, a computer can become intelligent by processing inter-connecting information culled from millions of programs and can become an entity by itself.

One of the most striking predictions of Alan Turin, the computer scientist and discoverer of algorithms, was that there could be an entity powered by computers that humans would mistake for being one of their own. Is this then the future?

Send in your computer- related problems to with bits&bytes as the subject line