Monday, 19 January 2015


Slate magazine reports on group of researchers in London that hope to gain insight in how artificial intelligence operates by letting it try its hand at prestidigitation and see how a computer algorithm might optimise a classic card trick. The thought is a little bit arresting, since it seems to allow robots into that human weakness and even yearning for deception.

Since we can be bemused and delighted by sleight-of-hand, maybe, unbeknownst to us as role-models, we’re sending the message that the appearance of sentience is good enough for us the gullible. One of the goals of this exercise, however—aside from any extraneous and unexpected findings it might yield in the fields of the human and machine psyches, is to learn and hopefully teach the difference between deliberate and unwilling deception—to not be too vague, demurring or confusing. What do you think about robotic magicians? Are we already dazzled too easily by the refined and rarefied interfaces of technology that hides the circuitry—or squirrels running in wheels?