B1 Intermediate UK 5919 Folder Collection
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We're going to do a little test together – Take a look at this image and tell me what you see.
Okay, and now this one, this one and this one.
This is an inkblot test, similar to the famous Rorschach test, designed by Swiss psychologist
Hermann Rorschach in the 1920s. It’s been used since 1939 to examine your personality
by looking at what you associate with these random ink blots.
So when I look at them I see… a masquerade mask, two people surrounded by evil leg-eating
fish, a leaf and a clown face.
But we haven't only tested these images with people.
Recently Google researchers showed these images to four different artificial intelligence
systems. They labelled their participants robot 1, 2, 3 and 4. And the robots all had
quite different responses.
In the first image, the robots saw a hook, barrette, art and one said it was a Rorschach inkblot.
In the second a jigsaw puzzle, fleur-de-lis, a design and a black ink splotch illustration.
In the third a mask, pin, isolated and another Rorschach inkblot.
And in the fourth image a hook, handle-bar mustache, a print and a black face paint print.
So… if a machine can understand and independently answer a personality test... Can computers
have personalities?
The term “Robot” was coined by Czech playwright Karel Capek, in his 1920 play Rossum’s Universal
Robots. Typically the word makes people think of a metal-clad machine with blinking lights
and a monotone voice, or a modern version of that, but robots include machines that
dispose of bombs, perform delicate surgeries and virtual software agents, what we also
call Artificial Intelligence or A.I.
In his 1950 paper, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence". Alan Turing proposed a test
called 'The Imitation Game', where a human examiner would listen to a conversation between
another human and a machine. If the examiner can’t tell who is human or machine, the
machine wins the imitation game. It’s artificially intelligent. That test is now widely known
as The Turing test.
A strength of the Turing test is that it’s really simple. It doesn’t matter how we
define intelligence, the examiner sits there and decides who is human and who is machine.
It’s still considered a milestone in Artificial Intelligence.
Though in contrast, the Rorschach test is pretty out of date. A big part of the test
involves you explaining why you see what you see. And an examiner uses a scoring system
to tell you what this says about your personality.
But studies have shown it’s not reliable or valid.
Really, the Rorschach test is better described as a problem solving task that gives us some
indication of your past and future behaviours, or at least some of your thoughts.
And the fact that mechanical brains can have unique thoughts, enough to distinguish responses
in a task like this, is pretty cool.
It does set them apart in some way – but is it personality?
Personality can be defined as “The unique psychological qualities of an individual that
influence a variety of characteristic behavior patterns across different situations and over time.”
But how does it apply to robots?
In his collection of stories I, Robot, Isaac Asimov introduced “Robopsychology” as
the study of the personalities of intelligent machines.
It started out as fantasy but Heather Knight, a roboticist from Carnegie Mellon University,
argues that robots need personality so we can achieve things with machines that neither
of us could do alone.
And earlier this year Google patented a method to download and customise personality to a robot.
But, what does a robot personality look like? In humans our personality traits are our thoughts,
feelings and behaviours that distinguish us from each other.
The Five Factor Model of personality suggests your traits are organised in terms of five
broad factors. Research indicates these traits are present from a young age, come from both
nature and nurture and can change throughout your life.
The plasticity principle suggests personality is an open system that can be influenced by
your environment. Research suggests change is most likely at certain ages or life stages
(think 20-40 or when you become a parent).
We tend to think of robot personality like we think about human personality, that everyone’s
different based on our makeup and experience. After all, those different A.I. saw different
things in the inkblot test.
But if one A.I., like Apple’s Siri, has millions of interactions every day, what does
that mean for its personality?
Siri, do you have a personality?
I can’t answer that.
Let me know what you think in the comments. And see you next week.
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Can Computers Have Personalities?

5919 Folder Collection
Adam Huang published on August 23, 2015    張景惠 translated    Mandy Lin reviewed
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