Monday, January 10, 2005

Is the cup half empty, or is the cup half full?

I'm going to indulge in a little blog activism today... No, no, you don't have to handle snakes or give out flowers at the airport. (though if you do, watch out for Robert Stack)
I just want to tell you about an intersting AI experiment involving the game of 20 Questions. Over at they've got just such an eerily fun project underway. I've been playing it all day, and I'm somewhat addicted. I've been throwing everything I can think of at the game, and getting some surprising results. After I ran through a laundry list of common office equipment to ask it about, I thought I'd get tricksy and tried a Lemur. Wrong! It nailed me in 14 questions.

Go experience the little jolt of excitement you get when a machine knows what you're thinking about... and then feel the hairs on your neck rise up a bit.

Actually, don't let that creep you out too much. Sure, it's still happening to me everytime the game guesses what I'm thinking of, but then once the game is over, it lets you peek behind the curtain a bit. It's funny to see what the game's current opinion about a subject. Take the aforementioned Lemur, for example:
Uncommon Knowledge about a lemur
Is it used during meals? I say Probably.
Can it run fast? I say Yes.
Is it black and white? I say Yes.
Does it smell good? I say Yes.
Can you jump on it? I say Yes.
Is it made in many different styles? I say Yes.
Does it have keys? I say Probably.
Does it hop? I say Yes.
Is it printed? I say Probably.
Does it open? I say Yes.
Does it come from an animal? I say Doubtful.
Does it like to run? I say Yes.
Is it an absolute state? I say Probably.
Is it worn? I say Yes.
Does it bounce? I say Yes.
Does it have striped fur? I say Yes.

So there you go. We're still the dominant species... Well maybe not this guy, but the rest of us are doing alright. Now, retrieve your keys and put on your synthetic lemurs... it's time for dinner.


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