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不死之身:保存你的意识,让你永生

(2010-06-13 10:26:59)
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杂谈

祖.格雷斯通,是一个有两个大脑的女孩。其中一个是人类的,另外一个则是一个完全有自主意识的数字拷贝。当祖的身体死去时,她的数字大脑将会被植入一个人型机器人,实际上等于将她从坟墓中复活。

类似的概念充斥了过去几十年的科幻小说,的确,格雷斯通是一个美国电视剧《Caprica》的角色。但这种神话究竟能不能变成现实呢?

尽管在可预见的将来,创造一个纯种的,具有自我意识的克隆机器的可能性不大,但数家公司已经朝那个方向迈进了。他们最初的目标是使你能够创造一个活体的数字表达,或者叫化身,在你的肉体消失后还能持续很长时间。这个数字“孪生兄弟”也许可以给你的曾孙一些有价值的经验,也能给他们出一些好主意,或者他们的祖先是什么样的人。

最终,不管怎样,他们的目标是创造一个具有人类情感和自主意识的机器人化身 - 实际上是使你或者你的某些外表成为不朽。“如果你能把你自己上传到这个数字形态中,它就可以永生。”Lifenaut公司的尼克.梅尔说,这家美国公司正在创造活体化身的道路上探索。“它正是一条永生之路。”

目前,Lifenaut依靠一系列的人格测验,教学会议和上传个人材料,如照片、视频和信件等。梅尔说,结果将会是一个外表象你的化身,说话方式像你并且能够描述你生命中的一些关键事件,比如你的结婚日期。但是,这种科技能够走多远?一台计算机究竟能够繁衍你的多少个性和知识?我们到底希不希望用化身来从死亡中复活?

像许多人一样,我经常梦想有一个克隆体:一个我的替身,能够分担我的工作,给我更多休闲事件,或许能够给我一个长寿的方法。在不朽的道路上,我的第一步会用Lifenaut's的网站创建一个基本的虚拟接口,别人,希望包 括我的后代,能够通过它来互动。这包括上传我一些无表情的正面照片。然后,Lifenaut的软件会将它做成动画,我的脸就可以说话、使眼色和眨眼睛。

现在,这种化身还相当粗糙,尽管其他公司正在制作更栩栩如生的产品,像Lifenaut公司的项目可以很好的修改使用。这些公司中有一家是在加州桑塔莫妮卡的“图像矩阵公司”,它专门为电影或者游戏创作数字面孔。

面部的复制是最困难的。多年以来,动画家们一直在试图攻克被称为“神秘山谷”的难题。在这个难题中,计算机生成的面孔看起来很像但不是非常像真的,让人看起来觉得恶心。“看起来接近真实的系统,使观看者毛骨悚然。”洛杉矶(Los Angeles)南卡罗莱纳大学的迪米祺.威廉姆斯如此评价。

图像矩阵公司相信他们已经攻克了这个难题。公司的工程师们记录了一系列人脸的高清图像,每个图像都有不同的表情。然后他们使用高性能数学建模软件计算这些表情中的差异。结果非常有说服力。 比如,2008年,该公司在美国计算机学会计算机绘图专业组揭示了美国演员艾米丽.奥布莱恩(Emily O'Brien)的数字版本,它不仅看起来真实而且能够实时控制。图像矩阵公司的CEO麦克.斯塔肯伯格说“动作非常完美。我们可以让’米丽’说任何话。”

目前,这种工艺还很贵:创造虚拟艾米丽花费了大约五十万美元。所以现在我只能凑合对付用原始的化身,希望我的孙子们不会太讨厌他。

创造活人

按照奥兰多的佛罗里达中央大学和芝加哥伊利诺斯大学的说法,看起来,我的化身最终不是取决于它的行为。从2007年开始,这两所大学就开始在“类生命体项目”上合作了,改项目的目标是创造一个美国国家科学基金会前主任亚历山大.施瓦茨科夫的现实化身。

他们展示了原型化身和大约一千名施瓦茨科夫学生的视频和照片,通过反馈试图找出人们最关注的容貌。他们的结论是,关注一个人的独特行为比创造一个类生命体的图像更重要。伊利诺斯大学的斯蒂夫.琼 斯(Steve Jones)解释说:“这个(特殊动作)大概是他们说话时昂着头或者皱眉毛”。

同样重要的是确保这些动作出现在合适的场合。为此,琼斯的团队一直试图将特定措辞和短语这些语境标记与头部的动作联系起来,以此表现化身在倾听。比如:“如果化身在听你讲述一个悲伤的故事,你希望看到某种同情。”琼斯说。但他承认他们还未攻克这个难题。

下一个挑战是使化身像人一样交流。目前,最类人化的行为来自聊天机器人,软件可以分析对话的语境并生成听起来智能化的回应,仿佛它在思考。Lifenaut在使聊天机器人软件个性化方面领先了一步。根据英国艾克塞克(Exeter)伊科葛诺人工智能公司罗娄·卡朋特的话,这涉及目前所能做到的极限,一个软件副本“不会有自主意识或者等同于你,但是别人可以和它进行对话,至少在某些时刻会相信你不时在那儿。”

Lifenaut化身的对话功能,来自于卡朋特创造的被他叫做"疯言疯语"的聊天机器人。这个通过和几百万人交谈开发的机器人始于1997年,并因最近似人类而两次获得勒伯纳奖。虽然很多聊天机器人被预编入对关键词做出反应的固定词组和回馈,“疯言疯 语”却关注对话中的普通范式,并籍此确保它所说的话在它刚听到的语境中恰如其分。

我的精髓

Lifenaut公司的化身也许看起来像一个人一样做出反应,但是你如何让它像你呢?唯一的方法是把关于你的一切教给它。这个人格的上传是一个艰难的过程。在初期包括给大约480项陈述分级,比如 “我喜欢取悦别人”和“我同情无家可归者”,标准是看它们在多大程度上准确反映了我的情绪。做完这些,我会被要求上传如日记、标记有地名、日期和关键词的照片和视频等项目来帮助我的化身树立“记忆”。我还要花费几小时Lifenaut公司的其他化身交谈,我的化身可以从它们身上学习。这应该可以提供给“琳达”我的言谈举止---我问候或者回答问题的方式- - 以及有关我的观点和好恶的更多信息。

一个相关的项目-CyBeRev已经在使用一个更为精密的人格调查问卷系列。项目的使用者要完成全部的几千个问题,作为一种精神存档,它由美国的社会学家威廉姆·希姆斯·班布里奇(William Sims Bainbridge)开发。与传统的人格调查问卷不同,通过让他们去想象未来一个世纪的世界,部分过程企图获取他们的价值观、信仰、希望和目标。这不是个快速的过程:“如果你每天花费一个小时去回答问题,完成它要花费5年的时间。”非盈利Terasem运动的罗利·罗德斯说,Terasem运动也是CybeRev的资助者,"但越到后来你的思维文件对你的再现将会越精确"。

那么,有没有可能使我的电子替身忠实再现我自己的人格?卡朋特承认为了使化身完全像你,Lifenaut化身也许需要和你进行一生的对话。我也不确定一批照片和视频能在多大程度上表达我真实的记忆。或许有更好的方法上传你的思维?

一种替代方法可能是自动捕捉你日常生活的信息并把它直接提供给“化身”。就象微软的研究人GordanBell通过“生命日志”在某种程度上已经做到的那样,“生命日志”被装配上一架便携式照相机,它将人们生活中的大部分内容纪录在胶片上。

由南汉普顿大学奈吉尔.沙德博尔特领导的小组正在试图通过开发软件来改进这种方式。软件可以将整个白天发生的数字影像和你的信息绑定起来,如你的日记、访问的社交网站和你位置的GPS定位信息。其他的研究人员正在考虑将像心率之类的生理数据集成进来,来提供基本的情绪状况。然而今天他们已经取得了一些小成就,可以将这一切绑定到任何类似化身的事物上。我们距离创造一个精确个人替代品还有很长的路要走,沙德博尔特说,“我坚信我们能够创造一个具有人类特质的软件,但它是否具有我的态度,还难以预测。”

不必惊讶,创造一个类似于祖.格雷斯通闺蜜,并具有独立意识的化身还有很多问题。人工智能的研究者们已经在制作人性化机器人方面取得了一些成功,齿轮和命运由麻省理工大学的罗德尼.布鲁克斯建造,名为Cyc的智能软件系统由人工智能公司Cycorp的道格.李纳特开发,公司位于德克萨斯。西班牙马德里的卡洛斯三世大学,劳尔.阿拉巴列斯开发了被称作Conscale的机器意识测试,目前相当于一岁的儿童。“并不是说我们不需要努力了,”达拉斯汉森机器人影像摄制公司的戴维.汉森说,“当然,我们无法证明机器能有意识 - 我们还不了解意识 - 但臆断机器不能有意识同样是愚蠢的”

肉身必不可少
    有个问题是,某种肉身是开发类人意识所必须的,意大利巴拉莫大学的机器人研究员东尼奥.切拉(Antonio Chella)说,“自主意识需要大脑、身体和环境的紧密集成,“我们感觉到我们的整个身体,所以一个有意识的实体需要能够感知世界并控制它自身运动的传感器”。

类生命体项目的研究者们在试图讲一个相机集成到他们的“瓦茨科夫(Alexander Schwarzkopf)”,这样它便可以通过人们的肢体语言捕捉到可视线索并相应调整它的行为。汉森对此很有信心。他的公司制作仿真机器人,他和梅尔在商量将一个Lifenaut公司的“化身”成到一个机器人中。“将心灵仿真器和物理的身体结合起来,将使心灵能够和世界进行身体交流,探索这个世界,并和我们生活在一起。”他说。

制作具有自我意识的机器人已经取得进步,但如果想走得更远,则需要人工智能研究各个细微领域大量的协同努力。为此,汉森已经启动了“阿波罗心灵创造力”计划,各个研究团队可以进行远程协作,制定的目标是2019年前完成具有人类水平的创造性智慧。计划的第一步是为机器人智能团队启用协作软件,使科学家能够准确地绘制出研究到了哪个阶段,并帮助他们甄别出需要做出的改进。汉森说项目的最终目标是超越人类智慧,创造出像莫扎特一样的天才“某种程度上,我们在寻找全新的专业机器人”说。

目的最终目标是超越人类智慧,创造出像莫扎特一样的天才

我自己的化身如何了?得到卡朋特的建议,我让我丈夫对它做了可能性评估。聊了一小会儿,他说我的化身对政治、食品和体育等问题的回答简直是胡扯。它还说它比我实际年龄还年轻。还还没有开始对我的年龄撒谎,但是也许Lifenaut的调查问卷察觉了我的虚荣心?最终,“化身”显得很消沉。

那么人类到底是什么?七月,Arrabales 计划用Conscale软件来测试Lifenaut的“化身产品”。尽管软件在某些方面能够满足更高的自主意识标准,Arrabales预测它能力的缺陷意味着也许只能得分3分,满分十分了。“祖.格雷斯通吧 -它大约只相当于一只蚯蚓”,他说,一直以来的努力居然就是个环节动物,毫无疑问我很沮丧。

 

Immortal avatars: Back up your brain, never die

 

ZOE GRAYSTONE is a girl with two brains. Only one of them is human: the other is an exact digital copy that has become conscious in its own right. When the human Zoe dies, her digital brain is implanted into a humanoid robot, effectively bringing her back from the grave.

Such ideas have littered science fiction for decades. Indeed, Graystone is a character in the American TV drama Caprica. But could such a tale ever become reality?

Though there is little prospect of creating a genuinely conscious robot-clone in the foreseeable future, several companies are taking the first steps in that direction. Their initial goal is to enable you to create a lifelike digital representation, or avatar, that can continue long after your biological body has decomposed. This digitised "twin" might be able to provide valuable lessons for your great-grandchildren - as well as giving them a good idea of what their ancestor was like.

Ultimately, however, they aim to create a personalised, conscious avatar embodied in a robot - effectively enabling you, or some semblance of you, to achieve immortality. "If you can upload yourself into this digital form, it could live forever," says Nick Mayer of Lifenaut, a US company that is exploring ways to build lifelike avatars. "It really is a way of avoiding death."

For now, Lifenaut relies on a series of personality tests, teaching sessions and uploaded personal material such as photos, videos and correspondence. The result, Mayer says, will be an avatar that looks like you, talks like you and will be able to describe key events in your life, such as your wedding day. But how far can such technology go? How much of your personality and knowledge can be reproduced by a computer? Can we ever hope to use avatars to resurrect the dead?

Like many people, I have often dreamed of having a clone: an alternative self that could share my workload, give me more leisure time and perhaps provide me with a way to live longer. My first step on the road to immortality is to use Lifenaut's website to create a basic visual interface with which others, hopefully including my descendants, can interact. This involves uploading an expressionless photo of myself, taken face-on. Lifenaut's software then animates it so my face can speak, wink and blink.

Right now this kind of avatar is rather crude, though other companies are generating much more lifelike representations that could be adapted for use by projects like Lifenaut. One such company is Image Metrics in Santa Monica, California, which specialises in creating digital faces for films and games.

Faces are particularly difficult to reproduce. For years, animators have struggled with a problem dubbed the "uncanny valley", in which a computer-generated face looks almost, but not quite, lifelike, triggering a sense of revulsion among human observers. "Systems which look close to real but not quite real are very creepy to people," says Dmitri Williams of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Image Metrics believes it has cracked the problem. The company's engineers record a series of high-resolution images of a person's face, each one with a different expression. Then they calculate the differences between these expressions using powerful mathematical modelling software. The result is pretty convincing. For example, the digital version of American actor Emily O'Brien, which the company unveiled at the ACM Siggraph meeting in Los Angeles in 2008, not only looks realistic, but can be manipulated in real time. "The movements are perfect. We can pretty much make Emily say anything we want," says Mike Starkenburg, CEO of Image Metrics.

At the moment the process is expensive: creating the virtual Emily cost around $500,000, so for now I'll make do with my primitive avatar and hope my grandchildren won't feel too repelled.

Making a human

How my avatar looks may in the end matter less than its behaviour, according to researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and the University of Illinois in Chicago. Since 2007, they have been collaborating on Project Lifelike, which aims to create a realistic avatar of Alexander Schwarzkopf, former director of the US National Science Foundation.

They showed around 1000 students videos and photos of Schwarzkopf, along with prototype avatars, and used the feedback to try to work out what features of a person people pay most attention to. They conclude that focusing on the idiosyncratic movements that make a person unique is more important than creating a lifelike image. "It might be how they cock their head when they speak or how they arch an eyebrow," says Steve Jones of the University of Illinois.

Equally important is ensuring that these movements appear in the correct context. To do this, Jones's team has been trying to link contextual markers like specific words or phrases with movements of the head, to indicate that the avatar is listening, for example. "If an avatar is listening to you tell a sad story, what you want to see is some empathy," says Jones, though he admits they haven't cracked this yet.

The next challenge is to make an avatar converse like a human. At the moment the most lifelike behaviour comes from chatbots, software that can analyse the context of a conversation and produce intelligent-sounding responses as if it is thinking. Lifenaut goes one step further by tailoring the chatbot software to an individual. According to Rollo Carpenter of artificial intelligence (AI) company Icogno in Exeter, UK, this is about the limit of what's possible at the moment, a software replica that is "not going to be self-aware or equivalent to you, but is one which other people could hold a conversation with and for a few moments at least believe that there was a part of you in there".

The Lifenaut avatar's conversational abilities come from a chatbot created by Carpenter called Jabberwacky. This has been developed through conversations with millions of people since 1997 and has twice won the Loebner prize for the most human-like chatbot. While many chatbots are preprogrammed with set phrases and reactions in response to keywords, Jabberwacky looks for common patterns between conversations, and uses this to ensure that what it says makes the most possible sense in the context of what has just been said to it.

Essence of me

Lifenaut's avatar might appear to respond like a human, but how do you get it to resemble you? The only way is to teach it about yourself. This personality upload is a laborious process. The first stage involves rating some 480 statements such as "I like to please others" and "I sympathise with the homeless", according to how accurately they reflect my feelings. Having done this, I am then asked to upload items such as diary entries, and photos and video tagged with place names, dates and keywords to help my avatar build up "memories". I also spend hours in conversation with other Lifenaut avatars, which my avatar learns from. This supposedly provides "Linda" with my mannerisms - the way I greet people or respond to questions, say - as well as more about my views, likes and dislikes.

A more sophisticated series of personality questionnaires is being used by a related project called CyBeRev. The project's users work their way through thousands of questions developed by the American sociologist William Sims Bainbridge as a means of archiving the mind. Unlike traditional personality questionnaires, part of the process involves trying to capture users' values, beliefs, hopes and goals by asking them to imagine the world a century in the future. It isn't a quick process: "If you spent an hour a day answering questions, it would take five years to complete them all," says Lori Rhodes of the nonprofit Terasem Movement, which funds CyBeRev. "But the further you go, the more accurate a representation of yourself the mind file will become."

So is it possible to endow my digital double with a believable representation of my own personality? Carpenter admits that in order to become truly like you, a Lifenaut avatar would probably need a lifetime's worth of conversations with you. Nor am I sure to what extent a bunch of photos and videos can ever represent my real memories. So might there be a better way to upload your mind?

One alternative would be to automatically capture information about your daily life and feed it directly into an avatar. "Lifeloggers" such as Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell are already doing this to some extent, by wearing a portable camera that records large portions of their lives on film.

A team led by Nigel Shadbolt at the University of Southampton, UK, is trying to improve on this by developing software that can combine digital images taken throughout the day with information from your diary, social networking sites you have visited, and GPS recordings of your location. Other researchers are considering integrating physiological data like heart rate to provide basic emotional context. To date, however, there has been little effort to combine all this into anything resembling an avatar. We're still some way off creating an accurate replica of an individual, says Shadbolt. "I'm sure we could create a software agent with attitude, but whether it's my attitude seems to be very doubtful," he says.

Not surprisingly then, creating a conscious avatar like Zoe Graystone's alter ego is far more problematic. AI researchers have had some success in making machines with human-like characteristics, including the humanoid robots Cog and Kismet built by Rodney Brooks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an intelligent software system called Cyc developed by Doug Lenat of Cycorp, a Texas-based AI company. Yet according to Raúl Arrabales of the Carlos III University of Madrid in Spain, who has developed a test of machine consciousness called Conscale, the best effort so far is probably equivalent to a 1-year-old child. That's not to say we shouldn't try, says David Hanson of Hanson RoboticsMovie Camera in Dallas, Texas. "Certainly we have no proof that machines can be conscious - we still don't understand consciousness - but likewise, it's silly to assume that machines can't be," he says.

A bit of body

One problem is that some kind of physical body is probably essential for human-like consciousness to develop, says robotics researcher Antonio Chella from the University of Palermo in Italy. "Consciousness requires a tight interaction between brain, body and environment." We perceive with our whole body, he says, so a conscious entity needs sensors both to perceive the world and to monitor its own movements.

Researchers working on Project Lifelike are trying to integrate a camera into their digital Schwarzkopf so that it can pick up visual clues from people's body language and adapt its behaviour accordingly. Hanson is yet more ambitious. His company makes realistic-looking androids, and he and Mayer have discussed integrating one of Lifenaut's avatars into a robot body. "Combining a mind emulation with a physical body allows that mind to physically interact with the world, to explore and live among us," he says.

That's a step towards making a conscious machine, but to go further will require a massive, coordinated effort involving the now fragmented areas of AI research. To this end, Hanson has launched the Apollo Mind Initiative to promote collaboration between research groups, setting the goal of achieving human-level creative intelligence by 2019. His first step is to launch collaborative software for the machine intelligence community, enabling scientists to map exactly what stage research has reached and help them identify which improvements need to be made. Hanson says that the project's eventual aim is to exceed human intelligence, creating Mozart-like genius. "In a way we're looking for protégé machines," he says.

The eventual aim of the project is to actually exceed human intelligence, creating Mozart-like genius

What about my own avatar? At Carpenter's suggestion I ask my husband to assess it for realism. After a short chat, he tells me that its responses to questions on politics, food and sports were nonsense. It also told him I'm younger than I really am. I haven't yet started to lie about my age but perhaps Lifenaut's questionnaires picked up on my latent vanity? Finally the avatar revealed it was depressed.

So how human is it? In July, Arrabales plans to test Lifenaut's avatar using Conscale. Although some aspects of the software might meet the criteria for higher consciousness, Arrabales predicts that gaps in its abilities mean it may only score 3 out of 10. Forget Zoe Graystone - that's about the equivalent of an earthworm, he says. All that time and effort for an annelid. No wonder I'm depressed.

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