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“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
>>> HAL 9000
We can say that the build-up of artificial intelligence (AI) to the point we can have conversations with machines has tantalized the human imagination. A lot of us have grown up watching movies about highly knowledgeable machines/robots in science fiction narratives.
Sci-fi was very popular when I was growing up, and I’m not sure if it’s because we subconsciously knew that we were getting closer to the point that this could be reality. Who knows! But we’re here, so let’s talk about it.
Sci-fi stories envisioned a future where AI systems and humans worked hand in hand, sometimes it went completely wrong for example I, Robot. But we can’t deny that we were engaged. It not only offered us entertainment, but it pushed the human brain to delve into deeper questions about the portrayal of artificial intelligence.
Do you remember HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey? How about Samantha in ‘Her’? These science fiction narratives allowed us to explore not only the ability of AI but also the ethical challenges that AI has in the real world.
We now transition from the screen to conversational models such as ChatGPT, which have turned these fiction stories into reality.
We can definitely say that the journey to achieve conversational AI has been remarkable to watch. Let’s take it back to ELIZA, an early natural language processing computer program which was created between the years 1964 to 1967 at MIT by Joseph Weizenbaum. ELIZA is your computer therapist that emulates a Rogerian psychotherapist. If you haven’t already, I’ll advise you to try it out and ask ChatGPT the same questions, it’s quite comical.
Below is a quick conversation I had with ELIZA and I tried the same with ChatGPT.
Years later, we started to encounter Siri and Alexa, our helpful assistants who sometimes didn’t understand what we were saying. We’ve come a long way since but doesn’t mean we have reached the end of the tunnel.
There have been many breakthroughs in machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) which have shown high performance due to the use of a variety of datasets, increase and development of hardware and more. We are now living in the large language model (LLM) era, where models such as ChatGPT and Google Bard have shown impressive human-like conversation.
ChatGPT: The Conversational Revolution
As mentioned, there are various LLMs out there and in the works, but currently, ChatGPT stands at the forefront. It provides quick responses which can be fine tuned to your preference. It’s not just an AI tool, it is also a collaborator. It can deal with a variety of tasks such as creative logo designs, text improvement and generation as well as educational material.
A lot of us are surprised how it can pick up emotions, and humor and how it adjusts its response based on this. But with all great things come limitations.
Although we see resemblances of how AI is reflecting our sci-fi dreams, it still needs to overcome certain challenges to converse like a human. As I mentioned before, we’re not at the end of the tunnel and researchers and organizations are working on how to overcome these challenges. LLMs face a lot of ethical challenges such as job displacement, privacy, data security, etc.
There remains a chasm between predictable scripting coming from AI systems and the natural fluidity of AI systems being able to produce original content.
In the following years, we should expect to manage ambiguous language, avoid biases and understand the nooks and crannies of the human language.
So I guess we can keep dreaming about the infinite limitations of Sci-Fi, right? Will we sooner or later reach the level of AI depicted in our beloved sci-fi narratives?
As we stand at this technological revolution of conversational AI, it’s important that we go back and reflect on how AI has become what it is today. The Sci-Fi narratives, to ELIZA giving us the cold shoulder advice and Siri telling us to repeat ourselves.
Conversational AI with tools such as ChatGPT allows us to bring our science fiction dreams to reality, to an extent.
Nisha Arya is a Data Scientist and Freelance Technical Writer. She is particularly interested in providing Data Science career advice or tutorials and theory based knowledge around Data Science. She also wishes to explore the different ways Artificial Intelligence is/can benefit the longevity of human life. A keen learner, seeking to broaden her tech knowledge and writing skills, whilst helping guide others.