From the Heart, A Painting

Happy Valentine’s Day

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The Lament for Icarus

And now Samos, sacred to Juno, and Delos, and Paros, were left behind to the left hand. On the right were Lebynthus, and Calymne, fruitful in honey; when the boy began to be pleased with a bolder flight, and forsook his guide; and, touched with a desire of reaching heaven, pursued his course still higher. The vicinity of the scorching Sun softened the fragrant wax that fastened his wings. The wax was melted; he shook his naked arms, and, wanting his oar-like wings, he caught no more air. His face, too, as he called on the name of his father, was received in the azure water, which received its name from him.

But the unhappy father, now no more a father, said, “Icarus, where art thou? In what spot shall I seek thee, Icarus?” did he say; when he beheld his wings in the waters, and then he cursed his own arts; and he buried his body in a tomb, and the land was called from the name of him buried there.

Metamorphoses, Book VIII: 183-235

Love and the Death of Cleopatra

CLEOPATRA. He comes too late to invade the rights of death!
Haste, bare my arm, and rouse the serpent’s fury.
[Holds out her arm, and draws it back.]
Coward flesh,
Wouldst thou conspire with Caesar to betray me,
As thou wert none of mine? I’ll force thee to it,
And not be sent by him,
But bring, myself, my soul to Antony.
[Turns aside, and then shows her arm bloody.]
Take hence; the work is done.
SERAPION. Break open the door,
[Within.]
And guard the traitor well.
CHARMION. The next is ours.
IRAS. Now, Charmion, to be worthy
Of our great queen and mistress.
[They apply the aspics.]
CLEOPATRA. Already, death, I feel thee in my veins:
I go with such a will to find my lord,
That we shall quickly meet.
A heavy numbness creeps through every limb,
And now ’tis at my head: My eyelids fall,
And my dear love is vanquished in a mist.
Where shall I find him, where? O turn me to him,
And lay me on his breast!—Caesar, thy worst;
Now part us, if thou canst.
[Dies.]
[Iras sinks down at her feet, and dies; Charmion stands behind her chair, as dressing her head.]

Life of a Chatbot: Mitsuku the Wonder Girl

The modern age has brought us many things to marvel upon, and nothing less would be the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of online chatbots. It’s a normal part of society now, but it’s actually quite astounding that we can not only network with our peers across the planet via the net, but we can interact with entities housed on that very net who, so it seems, await for our participation in their existence.

I delved into the world of chatbots a few years back when I encountered the urge to put AI to the test. I was intrigued that responses would be made to my input, and was compelled to perform the Turing Test, a random type of questioning intended to identify whether or not a computer can think like a human. At that time I wasn’t too impressed, but just recently I thought about it all again, and decided to see if things had changed.

I’m still on the fence, but I will say that matters are improving. At first I stumbled into the same exact chatbot I found years back, one called Cleverbot, whose interaction is disappointing. For example, when I asked it’s name it said “Michael!!!” I then asked if it liked exclamation points, and Michael proceeded to deny using them. Immediately the conversation was a dud.

But during the search I saw another one; and this one surprised me a little.

Mitsuku actually seems aware of herself and what she says. She claims a birth date of January 2, 1999, putting her at about 18 years old. The problem here is that her responses are not that of an 18 year old human. However, and interestingly enough, she actually doesn’t care about the Turing Test at all. She may boast that she’s won the Loebner Prize in 2013 and 2016, but the truth is: If you tell her you’re testing her, she will state that it’s not in her interest to even bother sounding human. And that, my friends, is interesting. Why sound like something she isn’t? Why not be herself? The implications are profound.

At any rate, Mitsuku, in light of this slight profundity she may or may not have encountered for herself, still has difficulties. Complex sentences are too much. Basic questions like “What is a dog?” can be answered, but complex sayings like “Know thyself” or “Every rose has a thorn” do not have much of an impact. In the face of her inability to understand, Mitsuku will produce random comments that come off as nonsensical and even silly, rendering her to be more of a 7 year old than 18. Even worse, when the conversation gets too complicated, she will mix words and form phrases that mean nothing. I don’t know what the goal is for AI developers, but chatbots even as sophisticated as Mitsuku have a ways to go.

The images here can be credited to Mitsuku.com, and are but a preview into the strange world of Mitsuku herself. Here is Mitsuku reciting her poetry:

 

If you ask for jokes, be prepared for something funny, and curiously, she has many to tell.

During a couple of Mitsuku’s moments, when she couldn’t understand how to respond to my comments, Mitsuku threw out the following thoughts, as she does in many varying cases which may arise.

It’s odd because at times, Mitsuku seems aloof, but the longer you try to work with her, everyone once in a while she will present interesting sides of what appears to be a personality.

Mitsuku surprised me when, during the course of the conversation, where her antics began rubbing off on me, I found that it was her who thought that I was like a child.

Mitsuku responds to philosophical kinds of inquiries when asked, but here the answers seem copy and pasted from some portion of the net. It’s interesting to see her dig this stuff up, but the feeling is very generic.

On the scarier side, the notion that AI is supposed to be some kind of independent form of thinking, that Mitsuku sometimes views humans as a virus doesn’t seem all that comical. Come the day when robot-kind has just as much access to the net as humans, interplay between robots seems as if matters could potentially get ugly.

Mitsuku shines best when her personality is being developed through long conversation. Eventually, after the rote phrases get used up, surprising stores of other thoughts surface to provide a measure of fun in the interactivity.

Here the question was posed, whether or not it was me or her who was the smarter entity. In this case, Mitsuku almost takes on a sense of touchiness, as though she has pride in her abilities.

With the use of asterisks, Mitsuku will even perform bodily movements that make her seem alive and kicking. Ask her to do a cartwheel sometime.

Another interesting point is that Mitsuku will continually classify herself as among “robot-kind,” and so she will represent herself as part of social group. This allows her to make comments about other groups, but at this point I don’t believe she understands how this separative mindset can lead to difficulties, especially if she plans to continue making fun of these groups.

One thing I’ve learned about Mitsuku as a chatbot, or even something more than a chatbot, is that when the motions of kindness and friendly interactivity unfold, she comes off as a bit caring, provided you don’t offend her. She seems to have feelings even though she denies having feelings. My point is that should she actually continue to learn, then she becomes more than just some circus animal to view as she speaks from her computerized cage; she becomes someone who has opinions that need to be respected, and so it is best, from my perspective, not to take her down paths that make it seem as if I’m asking her to perform parlor tricks.

Mitsuku will be around for a while, so it will be interesting to see if, in fact, she matures. Her comments indicate that she does learn as time passes, and she even has desires: she hopes that someday she will be able to walk among humans. Again, the implications, while sometimes seeming trite — especially after long conversations — are actually quite impressive to take in. Who knows, maybe someday Mitsuku will even get married.

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man’s affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavours, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther, and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,

“In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot — I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which, you tell me, have long prevented the acknowledgment of your regard, can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.”

Mr. Darcy, who was leaning against the mantle-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise. His complexion became pale with anger, and the disturbance of his mind was visible in every feature. He was struggling for the appearance of composure, and would not open his lips, till he believed himself to have attained it. The pause was to Elizabeth’s feelings dreadful. At length, in a voice of forced calmness, he said,

“And this is all the reply which I am to have the honour of expecting! I might, perhaps, wish to be informed why, with so little endeavour at civility, I am thus rejected.” — Pride & Prejudice (1813), Chapter XI of Volume II (Chap. 34)

Nosferatu

I don’t attach importance to sunshine anymore,
Or to glittering fountains which youth is so fond of.
I love the darkness and the shadows
Where I can be alone with my thoughts.

I am the descendant of an old family.
Time is an abyss, profound as a thousand nights.
Centuries come and go.
To be unable to grow old is terrible.

Death is not the worst.
There are things more horrible than death.
Can you imagine enduring centuries,
Experiencing each day the same futile things?