Artificial untelligence

After many, many years it came time to upgrade my “mobile”. I had grown attached to the old one. It took photos, sent messages and emails, recorded audio, Shazammed half remembered songs and, once in a while, it was even used for phone calls. But the screen and battery were past their use-by date.

It shared just two of the features of the phone we used to have plugged into a wall socket in the family home. It was a phone and, if you dialled a certain number, you could find out the time.

That one sported numbers on a “dial” – which is when that word became a synonym for face – and a big hand-held bit at the end of a coiled cord which time-displaced TV character Catweasle aptly named the “telling-bone”.

This latest iteration of the technological marvel was about the same price as a second-hand car and has costs to access the network equivalent to a tank of petrol.

Its new features are eerie. Point it at a brochure written in a foreign language and it instantly translates the words into English. Though, ironically, if I point it at an appliance manual written in stilted and confusing “Chinglish” the phone, like me, doesn’t stand a chance.

One day soon though, machine intelligence will surpass ours. Alexa will be asking us to do stuff for her, or complaining if we ask her a dumb question.

In fact AI is already showing its misanthropic side.

Remember Tay? An AI chat-bot released by Microsoft in 2016. The bot with a friendly-looking 20-something female avatar began posting racist and offensive tweets, causing Microsoft to effectively shut her down after only 16 hours.

More recently, a man placed an advanced AI controller, which he named Magneto, in his kitchen microwave. Before long Magneto began saying creepy and insulting things to him and eventually enticed him to get in the microwave “just for fun”.

The man opened the door then closed it and told Magneto he was inside. It was then that the microwave switched on. In other words, it used psychology to attempt his murder. So don’t say you haven’t been warned.