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Google’s “Chatbot” Answers Philosophical Questions

Alan Mathison Turing was a 19th century British mathematician and computer scientist who is considered by many to be the father of artificial intelligence. Among his numerous notable technological achievements was his invention of “the Turing test,” which, for those who haven’t heard of it (or haven’t seen The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch), is “a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.” In other words, the Turing test is a means of finding out if a given computer can pass as a human being.

So far, all of those Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems used when calling a customer-service helpline, for example, generally range anywhere from basically incompetent to hugely frustrating in terms of communications ability. In other words, they are not very good at passing for human. But major strides are being made in the tech community, and machines are now thinking like they never have before.

Enter Google’s “chatbot.”

In a research paper released by the tech giant, researchers say that they have developed an advanced form of artificial intelligence that can “[learn] how to respond in conversations based on examples from a training set of dialogue.” In the abstract for the paper, it’s stated that the “chatbot” offers “a simple approach” to “conversational modeling” by “generating simple conversations given a large conversational dataset.” Which means this computer program doesn’t require a lot of specific rules in order to come up with answers to questions. In fact, it doesn’t have a set answer for any specific question, but rather concocts a new answer of its own volition.

And although the paper notes that the chatbot would still doubtlessly fail the Turing test due to “many limitations [including] the lack of a coherent personality,” it can come up with its own answer to almost any question somebody throws at it. So the researchers decided to do just that, and you can check out some of the more thought-provoking philosophical robot Q&A below:

Human: What is the purpose of life?

Machine: To serve the greater good.

Human: What is the purpose of living?

Machine: To live forever.

Human: Where are you now?

Machine: I’m in the middle of nowhere.

Human: What is the purpose of dying?

Machine: To have a life.

Human: What is the purpose of emotions?

Machine: I don’t know.

Human: What is moral?

Machine: What empowered humanity, what intellectual the essence is.

Human: What is immoral?

Machine: The fact that you have a child.

Human: What is morality?

Machine: What is altruism?

Human: What is the definition of altruism?

Machine: If you don‘t believe in god, then you don’t know.

Human: OK…so what is the definition of morality?

Machine: Well, the truth is, you‘re not a believer in god almighty.

Human: Tell me the definition of morality, I am quite upset now!

Machine: I’m not ashamed of being a philosopher!

For the full conversation between researchers and the chatbot, you can check out Google’s research paper here. Along with the above philosophical answers, the machine also provided tons of other entertaining answers to questions such as, “What do you think about Bill Gates?” (“He’s a good man.”) and “What is your job?” (“I’m a lawyer.”).

Ultimately, even though this chatbot won’t replace your standard human organism in a conversation any time soon, it does stand as a bit more proof that machines are learning how to think for themselves. And that sounds pretty cool. We think.

What do you think about Google’s chatbot? Are you dying to have a conversation with it, or are you happy with good ol’ fashioned people? And do you ever think a machine will be able to pass the Turing test? Let us know in the comments section below!

HT: Business Insider

Image: Connie Zhou // Associated Press via Business Insider

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