Teaching AI to be Sociable

Humans can already form social bonds with robots, but the real trick may be getting AI equally interested in us

3 min read

In the recent superhero film Iron Man , there’s a scene where Robert Downey Jr.’s character struggles to reach a device to power his failing heart. He stretches an arm up to the device, but collapses before he can grab it. Lucky for him, his trusty robot is nearby—it manages to anticipate what he wants and hand him the device just in time.

In the real world, we’ve yet to create artificial intelligences that can respond so intuitively to our needs. The quest to do so has pushed two groups of researchers in nearly opposite directions. One group, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), in Troy, N.Y., has built Eddie, an AI that resides in the virtual world of Second Life and harnesses the power of a supercomputer to analyze a library of rules about human thinking. The other, MIT Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group, has built Leonardo, a furry, animatronic robot that learns as a child does, by interacting with people in the physical world. Within the last two years both Eddie and Leonardo have demonstrated a basic social ability that is the first step toward AI that understands how humans think.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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