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May 02, 2006

Automatic Bob ("Who?") Herbert Column Generator

Bob Herbert is justifiably famous as the Times columnist you never read even when you used to read the Times at all. He's a personal hero of mine, as he has absolutely nothing to say but says it twice a week anyway, and gets paid big bucks for his lack of efforts.

Nancy Kruh of the Dallas Morning News began noticing that his columns didn't just say nothing at all -- they said nothing at all in very similar ways to previous columns which said nothing at all.

Inspired by the fact that Bob Herbert's empty columns are filled with vacuuous repetitions, Brain Terminal spent 15 minutes writing software to automatically generate "Bob Herbert" columns. I can't really tell the difference.

The "Turing Test" is a famous test of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence will have been created, the test states, when a machine is able to pass its communications off as human. That is-- if you can't tell the difference between organic intelligence and simulated intelligence, the simulated intelligence has become true artificial intelligence.

I propose the converse "Herbert Test" -- if you can't tell the difference between a machine's columns and a column supposedly written by a human, doesn't that prove that the alleged human doesn't possess true human intelligence at all?

I owe someone a hat-tip here but I can't find where I got this from.


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posted by Ace at 04:26 PM

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