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AI can flirt, Google says

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AI can flirt

Will your computer flirt with you? It may happen sooner than you expect. Artificial intelligence (AI) software has advanced rapidly in the last two years, and “flirtation” in a computer operating system may not be far off.

You may have seen HER, the romantic comedy in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with “Samantha”, his computer’s intelligent operating system. The OS, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, learns, seems to grow psychologically, and seems to flirt with our hero. Perhaps you thought the movie was pure fantasy. Surely no computer actually could behave that way, could it?

If you thought this, think again. Geoff Hinton, one of Google’s chief researchers in artificial intelligence, says that flirtation algorithms could be with developed within a few years. In an interview with the Guardian, a London newspaper, Hinton said that it “would probably be quite simple” to design a computer program that could flirt with a human. “It probably wouldn’t be subtly flirtatious to begin with”, he said, “but it would be capable of saying borderline politically incorrect phrases.”

Irony, Hinton said, would be more difficult for a machine to understand. In an underhanded insult to the land of the free and the home of the brave, he said,  “You have to be a master of the literal first. But then, Americans don’t get irony, either. Computers are going to reach the level of Americans before Brits.”  In time, artificial intelligence will advance well beyond “the level of Americans” (ahem!). “It’s not that far-fetched”, Hinton said, “I don’t see why it shouldn’t be like a friend. I don’t see why you shouldn’t grow quite attached to them.”  AI loves you.

Hinton is not alone in this assessment. Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, said he expects computer AI software to possess enough emotional intelligence for romantic relationships with humans by 2029.

Hinton is leading a team at Google in the development of ‘thought vectors’. These are feedback loops that refine their understanding of words based on their contexts. The loop provides an error signal, which alerts the program to adjust its definitions continually, until the positions of words in the cloud are consistent with the way humans use them.

Within the last two years, scientist have made important breakthroughs in getting computers to communicate more like humans. Richard Socher, a leading AI researcher for Stanford University, recently launched a program he calls Nasent, which he taught to recognize human emotion by feeding it 12,000 sentences from Rotten Tomatoes, a popular movie review website.

Will your computer flirt with you? Before long, it could be possible. It may just need a bit of encouragement.

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