14 – Infinitely Amazing A.I.

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Little Dog: “Hey, Grampa. Did you read the DogWorld Tattler today?”

Grumpy Grampa: “The Tattler? I don’t read that rag. Too much gossip.” 

Little Dog: “Well, listen to this! Scientists have invented an automated robotic buttsniffing machine!” 

GG: “That’s impossible! There are far too many subtleties to canine anal scents. A machine couldn’t possibly be able to interpret them all. As you’ve hopefully learned by now, Little Dog, anal odors are extremely important. They help us determine whether dogs are healthy or sick, whether they’re in heat, how old they are, and even what mood they’re in.”

Little Dog: “Mood? Gee, I didn’t know that.”

GG: “It’s a subtle thing, but very useful. My point is that a robotic canine couldn’t possibly duplicate such a vital task. We dogs devote almost 30% of our brain mass to interpreting odors. No machine could ever accomplish that.” 

Little Dog: “Well, you have to admit, it sure would be useful. Sometimes dogs aren’t always in the mood for a quick butt sniff. By having the robot sniff the first time around, you could glean a lot of valuable information without potentially getting in harm’s way. Like that Rottweiler I met yesterday in the dog park? Boy, he looked mean! He actually turned out to be pretty nice, but you can never be sure these days, with canine strife and all.”

GG: “Regardless. It must be a fake. No machine can duplicate the sensitivity of a dog’s nose, or interpret the complexities of anal odors. Impossible.”

Little Dog: “I dunno. It says here that it’s very sophisticated. It has over one million olfactory sensors of incredible sensitivity. In addition, it uses something called artificial intelligence with automatic backpropagation and gradient descent. Evidently the machine can teach itself! Pretty amazing!”

GG: “Teach itself how to interpret butt odors? Ridiculous! Why do you read such crap?” 

Little Dog: “Haha. And smelly crap at that, eh Gramps?” 

GG: “Huh?” 

Little Dog: “Just kidding. And listen to this. It gets even more interesting. Evidently the designers are really worried. The butt-sniffing machine has a lot of complex programming to help interpret the nuances of butt odors. But the designers are worried about the self-teaching aspect. What would happen if their creation becomes better at butt-sniffing than dogs themselves? What if it decides to take over the world and prevent real dogs from sniffing butts? What a disaster!”

GG: “My paw pads are quivering with fright. Why do you bother me with this rubbish? How could these butt-sniffing machines take over DogWorld?” 

Little Dog: “Well, the article says that they might just keep teaching themselves new stuff, to the point where they could become infinitely more intelligent than us. They could become better squirrel trackers, for instance. Then they could catch all the squirrels, and cause a starvation crisis! Sounds pretty serious.” 

GG: “Well, I’ll keep sniffing my own butts, thank you. And as far as worrying about butt-sniffing machines taking over the world, I won’t be losing any sleep over it.” 

Little Dog: “Oh, Gramps. Always the skeptic. The world is changing, you know. Technology marches on!” 

GG: “Yes, it marches straight into the same dung pit as always. Technology may be progressing, but some things never change. Dogs are still dogs. There’s no accounting for the dumb things that we canines are capable of.”

Little Dog: “That’s for sure. Woof!”

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