Computers: They sure can do a lot of things now. But how smart are they really? A new MIT study says they’re catching up to us, as they’re beginning to understand the meaning of written, human-readable, English-language text. You know, like human beings. To prove this, a computer at MIT was forced to play the complex video game Civilization. At first, it wasn’t given any help but simply informed when it was winning and losing. Then researchers “augmented a machine-learning system” with a Civilization instruction manual:
Exposed to the written text, the computer won 79 percent of the games it played, while a version that didn’t rely on the written instructions won only 46 percent. A computer science professor at Brown was stunned: “If you’d asked me if I thought we could do this yet, I’d have said no,” he said. So now we’re gently rocking back and forth mumbling, “But computers can’t read … ” It’s a matter of minutes before people start marrying them, and from there they’ll obviously turn on us.