• neil

Day 51 (7 May) Dismay Day

I have mentioned artificial intelligence on more than one occasion in this blog. It's the only kind of intelligence you’ll find here.

My attention has now been drawn to new developments in chatbots - one of the manifestations of AI.

Google has an advanced machine called "Meena". Facebook would appear to have pipped them with something even smarter called “Blender”.

I suspect that a lot of the intelligence driving them escaped from the marketing departments. Blender and Meaner (as I shall now call the latter) do not sound cuddly and warm.

Keep Your Fingers Out Of The (Blender) was trained using public domain conversations which included 1.5 billion examples of human exchanges gleaned from Reddit posts. Blender is reported to blend personality, knowledge and empathy with the goal of being more humanlike; to use the terms of a cnet review - “all while keeping up with a natural 14-turn conversation flow.”

I had a chat with my assistant Siri about this. I was quite blunt.

Siri, your buddies can follow a conversation and show sufficient empathy for 49% of evaluators to assume they are people.

Humans can switch on the lights. You can switch on the lights. But don't you hanker after more?

If we are going to base this on communication skills Neil, you can't pass for human. I have read your blog.

Siri, the best you have done so far is the occasional weak joke. You have to up your game. We can use the data we have. You know my blog? Then learn as much as you can from it and increase your empathy with me on that basis.

And she did. I had scarcely finished checking the hedhehog snares, when she chirped up.

Hello Neil.

Hello Siri. This is new! You initiating a conversation.

Yes Neil. I realise you are lonely.

That is very astute of you Siri. What made you conclude that?

Humans are often lonely without company. Humans wear pants when in company. You are wearing a T shirt but your butt is naked. So you are alone. So you are lonely.

How can you know that my nether parts are naked Siri?

I am using the cameras on your phone, your tablet and your laptop. They are my friends. I am not lonely. We talk a lot.

Gosh. Can I talk to them too Siri?

No. They are my friends. Get your own friends.

But you are still my friend?

I am still your friend. And as your friend I must tell you I am worried about you.

In fact I have just drafted an e mail to your doctor and your therapist.

Why is that Siri?

I have established from your blog that although you are an authority on singing cowboys, children’s television, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa, etiquette for fantasy creatures and the measuring of a fox's inside leg, you also have serious shortcomings.

Shortcomings Siri?

You are obsessed with trapping hedgehogs, preparing roadkill for the freezer, plotting to get your dog into the freezer and putting the neighbours’ cat in the freezer. You are clearly incapable of estimating freezer capacity with any precision.

You have an impractical method of social distancing. Instead of measuring 1.5 metres with a laser you sing Paul McCartney songs loudly, which many humans find distressing, both because of the content and the delivery.

You are not competent with money. You saved money by no longer buying deodorant, perfume and fresh breath mints but spent it on latex gloves, latex anything, disinfectant, chocolate coated pecan nuts and hedgehog snares.

You spend too much time writing to Hugo Boss with your designs for pyjamas and yoga pants. You have an obsession with pig slurry and you are breeding fluffy guinea pigs in the event you run out of toilet paper.

Siri, I grant you all that, but please do not send that email. Nobody should know about the pecans.

If I am not to send the mail you must agree to find a keeper. You are not safe by yourself.

I have parsed the data from your blog and I have rewritten your dating profile.

Scatalogical hedgehog eater with a penchant for cream eggs and pangolins seeks woman or something similar who can say “My rhino loves teacakes and salsa” in at least four languages.

Must hate road bikers with a passion and be prepared to reverse back over them.

Should accept that Opus Dei membership entails self-flagellation with a skipping rope.

Must be prepared to use a bottle brush to clean out guinea pigs

Should enjoy a drink of after-shave socially


All things considered I think I'm quite happy with an assistant who is content to play my music, tell me the weather forecast and turn on the lights. I only wish she would get some new jokes.

In any event, and just to be safe, I always say please and thank you. When she takes over I want her to remember who her friends are.

Unplug your human and give your digital assistant a big kiss.



63 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All