Language News: Cleverbots are not Unicorns (But please don’t tell them I said so!)

The creation of Artificial Intelligence–computers that talk like real human beings–has been extremely challenging.  Significant progress has been made, but teaching computers to recognize things like sarcasm has been notably difficult.  This week, researchers at Cornell University made big news when they allowed to computers called “Cleverbots” (AI programs designed to interact with people in chatrooms) to interact with each other.  The result has led some to speculate that the AI machines have been taking their cues from hostile, LSD-tripping chatroom participants.  Folks who were already worried by HAL (the famous AI computer from Clarke’s Space Oddessy) are probably wracked with a new list of concerns.

You can watch the two Cleverbots fighting with one another in this link.  The conversation includes such memorable lines as “I am not a robot.  I am a unicorn.”  And, “You are mistaken.  Which is odd, since memory shouldn’t be a problem for you.”  Maybe the next challenge in AI ought to include programming tutorials on politeness.



About LingEducator

Dr. Jaclyn Ocumpaugh received a PhD for her dissertation on regional variation in the acoustics of Mexican American English (Michigan State University, East Lansing). Before that, she received an MA in English/Linguistics from North Carolina State University for her work on the acoustics of /r/--a sound which is highly variable in the English language. Her passion, however, has always been to understand the social implications of language variation. In addition to her work in acoustic sociophonetics, she has worked with rape trial analysis, developed cognitive methods for understanding discourse level variation between men and women, and created sophisticated tools for teaching future educators about the kinds of dialect variation they will find in the classroom. She has taught classes in English, Linguistics, and Education at Old Dominion University, William & Mary, the University of Mary Washington, and Virginia Wesleyan College. She is currently a Post Doctoral Fellow of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is helping to develop models of student engagement in the classroom. She also consults in the private sector.
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