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Go Masters, Chatbots, and Imitation Poetry: The Current State of AI

Remember J.A.R.V.I.S. from the “Iron Man” franchise? While we can dream of having such a futuristic personal assistant, the fact is it’s already there in your hands. It’s a lot less exciting, but it’s all… in your phone.JARVIS-Initializing-690x262-1378484031

What does J.A.R.V.I.S. do that Siri/Cortana/Google Now can also?

Remind you of important dates and meetings? Check.
Dictate and send out an e-mail? Check.
Compile a list of people who could be The Mandarin? …Probably.

Artificial Intelligence (AI for short) refers to machines or software that can intelligently assess its environment and subsequently perform actions to complete specific tasks. That definition alone constitutes the personal assistants that are built into our smartphones. It just doesn’t seem especially futuristic because J.A.R.V.I.S. has really fancy graphics and motion gestures. Also, the sarcasm plugin.

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Unfortunately our perception of AI has been skewed by such grandiose portrayals, such as the super-intelligent Skynet from the “Terminator” series that has its own purposes, plans, and awareness. While we probably won’t be welcoming our new robot overlords anytime soon, technological research has made significant breakthroughs that will allow machines to match or even outstrip our human mental faculties.

57237651Most noteworthy is human Lee Sedol’s recent loss to Google’s AlphaGo AI. Lee ranks second in Go internationally but was trumped 4-1 by AlphaGo in a best-of-five match.

What’s particularly significant is that no machine has previously bested a human at Go without a significant advantage. To give an idea of its complexity, a Chess game has 10^120 possible moves, while Go is said to lie in the range of 10^360 possible moves. This number is still a general consensus with theoretical estimates pushing that number even higher.

AlphaGo managed to beat Lee through vigorous learning from a pool of moves by grandmasters and virtual games against itself. This provided it with more resources and opportunities to learn which moves would be more effective. AlphaGo’s victory marks a milestone towards further development of machine learning.

While independent learning remains a cornerstone of AI development, another focus is on the ability to understand and converse in natural language. AI built to hold conversations, called “chatbots”, have become much smarter and can actually pass for humans.

cleverbotMany chatbots exist in the public space including the infamous Cleverbot. However, these programs may still be unable to understand what we’re saying or incapable of sustaining an interesting dialogue. Or to be quite honest, nobody is really comfortable talking to a machine yet.

While researchers are still working out how to get machines to better communicate with us, there is another kind of AI that is capable of generating poetry with an almost-human flair. Here’s one of the better poems from an AI created by Zachary Scholl:

A home transformed by the lightning
the balanced alcoves smother
this insatiable earth of a planet, Earth.
They attacked it with mechanical horns
because they love you, love, in fire and wind.
You say, what is the time waiting for in its spring?
I tell you it is waiting for your branch that flows,
because you are a sweet-smelling diamond architecture
that does not know why it grows.

What’s most impressive about this poem, aside from the fact that it was written by an AI, is that it was accepted as a submission by a literary journal, The Archive.

But what are the implications if AI were to start creating literature? Would it still be considered art? Would we need to distinguish between human and AI works?

As it stands, the wildly popular Twitter account @Horse_ebooks, having been widely speculated to be the work of an AI, was revealed to be run by a human. At this point, there really is no telling between AI or human works.

And while the aforementioned AIs are not capable of producing physical content or interacting in a physical manner, there is another kind of AI that may soon cross into that area.

This “handwriting” AI is able to transform text input into handwritten works. But not just as a standard handwritten font – there is a discernible distinction between each instance of a letter. Here’s some Ariana Grande lyrics written by the AI:

handwriting-ai-ariana-grandeAs you can tell (through the 8-year-old’s handwriting), it’s hard to determine if this was really written by a person or not.

So the machines not only take our jobs but create our art as well. In addition, you’re already reading this on a machine. There’s no telling what the future holds or if any evil tech “dreams” to take over the world but I, for one, welcome our future digital overlords. They are a significant part of our lives and they aren’t going anywhere soon.


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Izzan Haziq

I have a particular affinity for bread-based products, metal music and the minimalist aesthetic. Also, naps are great.

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