The ghost in the machine – ex machina

The Turing test is a concept which most people interested in computers and particularly AI have heard of. Named after genius Alan Turing of Bletchley Park fame (the type of fame which comes after your work is declassified many years later) who was finally posthumously pardoned for the non crime which scandalized his career.
Turing set the test for AI two decades before Bill Gates dropped out of college with the ambition to put a PC on every desktop.
The premise of Turing’s test is a simple one. Can a machine pass for human?
Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina turns the test into drama. His skill as a writer is evident when he explains the test in conversation between the two protagonists. The concept of the movie is one which touches on some of the fears of our age. How are those who oversee all of humanity’s internet searching using that data? Are they training AI to spot when a human lies, are they tracking an individual’s searches so they can build an AI body which matches those desires? There is also the underlying issue of once you have built a sentiment AI, is it your property? Should it be free?
Garland wrote the novel The Beach which became the excellent Danny Boyle movie, he also wrote the screenplay for another highly acclaimed Boyle movie 28 Days Later as well as penning Sunshine which Boyle also directed (as an aside, I thought the better tale would have been what happened on the first ship which failed in its mission rather than the second attempt).
The movie is well acted and Garland does get under the skin of his characters, including the AI – which in a movie about the Turing test is vital.
The special effects are at the standard you would expect, but this movie is really about the interaction of characters, human and AI.

(as a further aside Garland ends the film in a place where many would have started a film about AI. And perhaps that film in Garland’s hands would be interesting, but he has done a brave and intellectually challenging thing, making the Turing test into great drama.)


Why has Google sold one of its robotics companies?

Google, or rather its parent company Alphabet, has sold off one of its robot development companies, Boston Dynamics to a Japanese tech conglomerate. Details here.

SoftBank is rumoured to have spent US$100m on the acquisition.

The question surrounding this must be who has made the better deal. Both companies are highly profitable forward thinking companies.

So has Google sold off a company with massive potential or has SoftBank purchased something which will never make a decent profit?

Or perhaps, neither of these things?

Probably Google has a company which doesn’t fit in with its strategy, it is going big on driver-less cars while Boston Dynamics, a spin off from MIT, makes robots which mimic animal movement.

SoftBank sells Pepper, a robot companion who lives in your home. Perhaps Softbank can enhance its product with the knowledge, hardware and quite possibly patents which come with taking this company from Google’s hands?

Outside of the seller and buyer, no one knows for sure what each sees in the deal. But it would be worth keeping an eye on what Pepper develops into in the next few years.