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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Intelligence ~ artificial intelligence and bid intelligence !!


Srinivas Youngmens Association (SYMA) has been conducting inter-school competitions for Chennai School children ~ SYMA Childfest  for more than 25 years now .. this years for the ‘skit competition’ we discussed and stumbled upon theme – ‘artificial intelligence & future’. 

Human brain is a wonder .. .. Intelligence has been defined in many ways, including: the capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, and problem solving. More generally, it can be described as the ability to perceive or infer information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context.  So where does intelligence  emanate from ?? ~ where does it resides in the brain !!  For years, Russian scientists harvested the brains of exceptionally smart people, trying to locate the source of their intelligence. After Lenin died in 1924, for example, the Russians invited the great German neuro-anatomist Oskar Vogt to try to locate the “source of genius” in the leader of the Russian revolution. Vogt cut Lenin’s brain into more than 1,100 slices, but he found nothing exceptional except unusually large pyramidal cells.  The last brain that the Russians studied in this way was that of Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear physicist and human rights activist who died in 1989. From the dozens of brains they studied, the researchers made many observations about brain size, the density of neurons and the number of convolutions of the cortex, but their findings revealed next to nothing about human intelligence. 

Away from humans and machines .. .. there are animals and birds which possess intelligence too ..   Some birds can talk ….. or rather mimic the sounds and spoken language of humans.  There has been debate on whether parrots talk, have some cognitive understanding of the language ?  or just replay the sound ??  Birds have varying degrees of talking ability: some can mimic only a few words and phrases, while some have been observed to have a vocabulary of almost 2,000 words. We have read the Panchatantra  fables  revealing ‘animal wisdom’- stories of a little rabbit leading a lion to a well – makes its see it’s own image – lion jumps into the well – only to get killed…… animals are wise ! …. ...  – parrots are green beautiful birds !!

Amazon Alexa,  simply Alexa, is a virtual assistant developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers developed by Amazon Lab126. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news. Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Users are able to extend the Alexa capabilities by installing "skills" (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps such as weather programs and audio features).

Green parrots belong to the family of Psittacidae - one of three families of  parrots. It comprises the rough 10 species of subfamily Psittacinae and 157 of subfamily Arinae as well as several species that have gone extinct in recent centuries. The fact is parrots come in many a colours.   One such is   an African Grey parrot.

As the name suggests these birds of grey colour are capable of amassing vocabularies of up to 1000 words or more, and using the words that they learn to speak in context ! To say that these birds are intelligent would be an understatement.  In recent years, much research has been done on the mental capacity of African Grey parrots by scientists around the world. The most famous instance of this is the work that Dr. Irene Pepperberg conducted with her famous African Grey, Alex. Using Alex and other African Greys in research trials focusing on communication, she was able to show that not only can African Grey parrots learn an incredible amount of human words, they can learn to use them in context to communicate with their owners. It has been said that these impressive birds have the mental and emotional capacities of a 5-year-old human child.

Now read this interesting article on Rocco, the parrot swooping a bargain, ordering fruits and other things for self – reported in MailOnline and many other media. Rocco the parrot, who was rehomed from a sanctuary after cursing too much, has been accidentally placing orders on Amazon by chatting to voice-activated personal assistant Alexa.  So far, the African Grey has 'bought' a range of fruit and veg – including water melons, raisins and broccoli – ice cream, a light bulb and even a kite.

Rocco was rehomed from the National Animal Welfare Trust sanctuary in Berkshire because staff feared his use of swear words would upset visitors. Sanctuary worker Marion Wischnewski volunteered to foster him and took him to her home in Blewbury, Oxfordshire.  The buzz is because it had since started  using her Amazon Echo to order all the things he likes to eat.  The African Grey – a breed renowned for its ability to copy words – added shopping to a virtual supermarket list by speaking to the device. !  Miss Wischnewski said: 'I have to check the shopping list when I come in from work and cancel all the items he's ordered.'

Alexa talks back to the parrot and plays music, with songs by American rockers Kings of Leon the bird's favourite. Miss Wischnewski said of Alexa and Rocco's relationship: 'They chat away to each other all day. Often I come in and there's music playing.'

Interesting indeed !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
16th Dec 2018.


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