Will computers ever truly understand what we’re saying?
Date: January 11, 2016
Source University of California - Berkeley
If you think computers are quickly approaching true human communication, think again. Computers like Siri often get confused because they judge meaning by looking at a word’s statistical regularity. This is unlike humans, for whom context is more important than the word or signal, according to a researcher who invented a communication game allowing only nonverbal cues, and used it to pinpoint regions of the brain where mutual understanding takes place.
From Apple’s Siri to Honda’s robot Asimo, machines seem to be getting better and better at communicating with humans. But some neuroscientists caution that today’s computers will never truly understand what we’re saying because they do not take into account the context of a conversation the way people do.
Specifically, say University of California, Berkeley, postdoctoral fellow Arjen Stolk and his Dutch colleagues, machines don’t develop a shared understanding of the people, place and situation - often including a long social history - that is key to human communication. Without such common ground, a computer cannot help but be confused.
“People tend to think of communication as an exchange of linguistic signs or gestures, forgetting that much of communication is about the social context, about who you are communicating with,” Stolk said.
The word “bank,” for example, would be interpreted one way if you’re holding a credit card but a different way if you’re holding a fishing pole. Without context, making a “V” with two fingers could mean victory, the number two, or “these are the two fingers I broke.”
“All these subtleties are quite crucial to understanding one another,” Stolk said, perhaps more so than the words and signals that computers and many neuroscientists focus on as the key to communication. “In fact, we can understand one another without language, without words and signs that already have a shared meaning.”
(Adapted from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/1 60111135231.htm)