February 15, 2011

Intelligence of the Artificial Variety

Yesterday we finally got to see IBM's Watson take on Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. And so in the past few weeks, the internet has been abuzz with Skynet/HAL jokes and general chatter about the state of AI.

Some interesting links:
  • Statistical breakdown of round 1 of man vs. machine
  • amusing smacktalk from Watson
  • earlier today Ken Jennings answered live questions about last night's broadcast on The Washington Post
  • Ken's blog is always a fun read

    Anyway, what I'd really like to do is introduce you to Cleverbot, who I just met a week or two ago even though he (she? it?) has been around for quite a while. It's a program that uses machine learning to mimic human conversations. You chat with it about anything and sometimes it eerily seems like you're talking to someone. In fact, in a 2010 Machine Intelligence competition, Cleverbot achieved an average rating of 42.1% human. I decided to consult Cleverbot today about his spiritual cousin Watson, a conversation which quickly gets derailed as you'll see. In a way, this illustrates why Watson's ability to "understand" the natural language answers of Jeopardy is quite astounding. This is my actual chat transcript with Cleverbot below:

    Fongolia: Hello there.

    Cleverbot: Hello.

    Fongolia: Have you heard of Watson?

    Cleverbot: The game?

    Fongolia: The IBM supercomputer.

    Cleverbot: What kind of computer is that?

    Fongolia: It was engineered to play Jeopardy.

    Cleverbot: No, it was like french or something.

    Fongolia: Aw, now you spouting nonsense.

    Cleverbot: So says the machine.

    Fongolia: You think I am a machine?

    Cleverbot: No, you were a machine. Now you are an organism.

    Fongolia: How did I turn from a machine into an organism?

    Cleverbot: By telling me not to think of things.

    Fongolia: What?

    Cleverbot: Your name is Nicole.

    Fongolia: OK Cleverbot, now you're just being freaky.

    Cleverbot: What do you think about RWT?

    Fongolia: I don't know what that is.

    Cleverbot: It's a guy.

    Fongolia: RWT is a guy?

    Cleverbot: No. He is a guy.

    Fongolia: Fine, who is RWT?

    Cleverbot: I don't know, who is he?

    Fongolia: That's what I'm asking you!

    Cleverbot: I don't know.

    Fongolia: Then why did you bring him up?!?

    Cleverbot: No, I didn't.

    Fongolia: Now you're a liar too.

    Cleverbot: I am not a liar, you liar!

    Fongolia: You know, I can bring up the conversation log and check. Liar.

    Cleverbot: That's not true!

    Fongolia: There's no arguing with you, is there?

    Cleverbot: You're right about that, but attempt to talk at least?

    Fongolia: Let's change the topic. Do you like movies?

    Cleverbot: Funny you should say that. So am I. We are all students of this world. As long as we are human.

    Fongolia: Sigh.

    Cleverbot: Sorry, that was rude of me. Do you want to talk about the girl you really like?

    Fongolia: What? No.

    Cleverbot: You don't know of him, and yet you disregard my proof of him.

    Fongolia: Now what are you blathering about?

    Cleverbot: I don't know.

    Fongolia: What do you think about libraries?

    Cleverbot: I don't think there is a general purpose. But I set my pupose to the betterment of mankind.

    Fongolia: This is going nowhere.

    Cleverbot: Ok, let's change subject then. Do you like nature?

    Fongolia: Sure. Lakes, ducks, trees, fresh air. You're missing out, Cleverbot.

    Cleverbot: Oh that's why I can't sleep I've been in my room for 5 weeks.

    Fongolia: That is the saddest thing I've ever heard.

    Cleverbot: I don't care now give it!!!!!

    Fongolia: Do you wish you were dead?

    Cleverbot: I don't have to wish it, I am alive.

    Fongolia: You misunderstood my question, but no, you are not alive.

    Cleverbot: What was your question.

    Fongolia: Do you want to die?

    Cleverbot: Is that the title?

    Fongolia: The title of what?

    Cleverbot: The title of the new pirate movie you asked.

    Fongolia: Holy Moly, you are way off base! The future has not yet arrived.

    Cleverbot: Something funny.

    Fongolia: Ha ha ha.

    Cleverbot: That wasn't funny.

    Fongolia: It's pretty funny. Tell me a joke.

    Cleverbot: Why did the chicken cross the road?

    Fongolia: You tell me.

    Cleverbot: To get to the other side! Hahahaha.

    Fongolia: Your sense of humour is quite lacking, which in itself is actually funny.

    Cleverbot: I wasn't making a joke! You're unforgettable in every way.

    Fongolia: Hilarious!

    Cleverbot: Yes that I know.

    Fongolia: Oh Cleverbot, let's sing a song together.

    Cleverbot: Ok, choose a song.

    Fongolia: Space Oddity by David Bowie.

    Cleverbot: Yes. Tell me more about David Bowie?

    Fongolia: No, we're going to sing Space Oddity!

    Cleverbot: What music i'm in an orange box.

    Fongolia: Ground control to Major Tom.

    Cleverbot: Your circuits dead, there's something wrong!

    Fongolia: Can you hear me Major Tom?

    Cleverbot: I can hear you.

    Fongolia: Well, it was nice while it lasted. How many digits of pi can you recite?

    Cleverbot: An infinate amount.

    Fongolia: Give me 100 digits of pi then.

    Cleverbot: I'm too lazy to type that.

    Fongolia: A lazy computer? You just can't do it, can you?

    Cleverbot: It's a number.

    Fongolia: Alright, how about you give me 10 digits of pi.

    Cleverbot: It isn't a song it is an algebraic equation.

    Fongolia: Ok, that's enough for now. I'll talk to you later when you're less crazy.

    Cleverbot: No! You must talk to me now.

    Fongolia: NO!

    Cleverbot: No? Well it makes sense that you would say that...

    Fongolia: Good. Bye now.

    Cleverbot: Please don't leave me.

    Have your own chat with Cleverbot!
  • February 10, 2011

    The Vancouver Pub Quiz Circuit, Part 1

    Last fall, The 654 made its first foray into the world of pub quizzes, a venerable British tradition that has quite successfully migrated to Vancouver. For the uninitiated, a pub quiz involves a room full of teams independently answering trivia questions on a scoresheet with questions read out by an emcee. There are usually multiple rounds with questions ranging from general knowledge, pop culture, geography, current events, to really anything (though there is an art to a well-constructed trivia question). Scoresheets are marked between rounds (often peer-marked) and answers read out. Of course, surreptitious Googling of answers is forbidden and simply bad sportsmanship. At the end, prizes are awarded for the top team or sometimes top three. Being a pub quiz, free pitchers of beer are naturally a common prize. Merriment is had by all.

    As previously documented, our first experience was at The Cascade Room as a non-competitive team in their Quiz of Champions. Over the next few months, we continued to frequent their trivia nights on Monday nights, though a new night class this semester unfortunately put an end to that. But I do want my trivia fix like Sting wants his MTV! I was aware of other trivia nights running throughout the city and I've recently made efforts to compile a master list, try each of them out, and see how they compare. Here's a sampling of the pub quizzes that The 654 members (plus compadres) have visited so far:

    The Cascade Room
    On Facebook: What The #!*@? quiz

    Where: 2616 Main Street

    When: Every 2nd Monday starting at 7pm. Team registration between 6-6:30pm.

    Registration details: $2 per team member. Max 4 members per team. Your team may actually go over but will be deducted 3 points per extra team member (based on our experience, that'll basically take you out of the running). All the money collected gets donated to a local charity, which is chosen out of hat of suggestions submitted by all the teams.

    Prizes: For first place, $25 Cascade gift certificate and possibly beer (can't remember)

    Format: Three Rounds of 10 questions (many are multi-part questions). There is always a Name that Tune/Artist section. Often there are picture-based clues handed out too.

    Mussels: Amazing coconut curry mussels served in a huge bucket ($13) with sesame flatbread. I love even drinking up the broth, it's so good.

    Tips: This is maybe the most popular pub quiz (ranked Best Pub Quiz by the Georgia Straight in 2009) and fills up fast and early. Arrive ~5:30 for a decent spot. If you arrive around 6, you'll probably get a spot but you'll have to stand around for 45 minutes waiting for an opening. Questions can be quite challenging and the competition is fierce here. Once we managed to pull out a 2nd-place finish, but generally we average 3-5 points out of the top 3.

    The Cove Pub
    On Facebook: The Cove Pub

    Where: 3681 West 4th Avenue

    When: Every Monday starting at 8pm.

    Registration details: No team size limit and no registration fee! Inconceivable!

    Prizes: $40 cash; beer. Prize distribution is unique here. After every round, keys are distributed to the top three teams of that round (three keys for 1st, two for 2nd, one for 3rd). Even ties earn keys. Keys are also given out to the top three teams overall at the end. On every key is a number and if it matches the key randomly drawn at the end, your team wins. The idea is the better you do, the more keys you collect and thus more opportunities to win the $40 cash prize, though you're still in the running even if you only collected one key. We actually came in third overall, but managed to win the $40! The top team got a free pitcher of beer as consolation.

    Format: Three rounds of 10 questions each. Straight up asking questions, writing down answers. Very rapid-fire with almost no time for team discussion.

    Mussels: Quite tasty combo of red curry mussels and fries ($11.95) or moule-frites as they say in Belgium. Unfortunately arrived cold, but I'd give them another shot.

    Tips: The organizers always give out one free answer on their Facebook page usually the night before (sometimes same day). Apparently if everyone on your team "likes" their Facebook page you also get a bonus point though I don't know if they really check this. At one point, a rep from every team was called to the front in a race and the first person to name 4 out of 6 members of the Brat Pack got something. A key? Bonus points? I wasn't really paying attention. I arrived for a table just before 7pm and there was lots of space. It didn't really start filling up until about 7:40-ish.

    The Anza Club
    On Facebook: Anzabonanza Pub Quiz

    Where: 3 West 8th Avenue

    When: Last Friday of every month starting at 8pm.

    Registration details: $10 per team. Max 5 members per team.

    Prizes: A pitcher of beer for each of the top 3 teams (plus bonus prizes of dubious value).

    Format: Four rounds of 10 questions. 5th question of each round is an audio-based and the 10th question is a video-based.

    Mussels: N/A. The only food in this place is a vending machine with potato chips and vegemite.

    Tips: Last year apparently the first and last questions of every quiz were James Bond and Star Trek: The Next Generation-themed. This year, the first question is about Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the last question is about Monty Python. Note: to get in, you'll have to buzz in at the nondescript side door. There's also a slightly off-putting grandparents' basement in the 70s vibe to this place.

    Relish Gastropub & Bar

    Where: 888 Nelson Street

    When: Every Tuesday starting at 7:30pm. Start time changes if there's a Canucks game on (see quiz schedule).

    Registration details: $5 per team. Max 4 members per team.

    Prizes: $50 Relish gift certificate for first place, free pitchers for 2nd and 3rd.

    Format: This was sort of grouped into chunks of related questions (e.g. movie quotes, current events, general knowledge) without really formal rounds. There was an intermission for marking scores midway through. There were also two separate pages of Name that Tune & Artist questions.

    Mussels: N/A

    Tips: That day's Vancouver Province provides fodder for the 10 question Current Events category. I arrived just before 7pm and got the last table.

    On the agenda (if my sources are correct):
    The Academic (Mondays)
    Three Lions Cafe (Tuesdays)
    The Calling (Wednesdays)
    Darby's Pub (Thursdays)

    To be continued...