August 15, 2003



Man's Best Friend

Technology Trends reports on a breakthrough at Sandia National Laboratories, the development of what they're calling a cognitive machine. According to a press release put out by the Sandia team, this computer can "accurately infer user intent, remember experiences and allow users to call upon simulated experts."

The press release continues:

The idea borrows from a very successful analogue. When people interact with one another, they modify what they say and don't say with regard to such things as what the person knows or doesn't know, shared experiences and known sensitivities. The goal is to give machines highly realistic models of the same cognitive processes so that human-machine interactions have essential characteristics of human-human interactions.

This sounds like a major breakthrough. One step closer to strong A.I.

And here's something that struck me as intriguing. Compare the above passage to this, taken from an article on Boston.com (via GeekPress) about the secret inner lives of dogs:

Canine-deflators point to a study published last year by Dr. Brian Hare of Harvard and colleagues which suggested dogs are exquisitely attuned to us, just not in the way we'd like to think. Rather than looking deep into our souls, dogs have evolved a special talent for picking up on basic human cues. They watch our hands and eyes to get hints on where food is hidden, for example, whereas chimpanzees, though smarter than dogs in general, show no such talent. Nor, for that matter, do wolves. This suggests that much of what we think of as canine intelligence is just an understanding of our body language. Or, as Budiansky would put it, we are the ecological niche that dogs have evolved to exploit.

Exploiting this niche has enabled dogs to evolve — or more precisely, has enabled us to evolve dogs — from wolves to myriad specialized breeds having various levels of intelligence and sets of capabilities. I have to wonder...now that we have bestowed a similar talent on computers, how will they use it to evolve?

Or — again, to be precise — how might they use it to evolve us?

Posted by Phil at August 15, 2003 04:37 PM | TrackBack
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