You've met them, I'm sure. People who are so learned, so scholarly, so deeply invested in what they're doing, that you can't understand a word they're saying — well, maybe you catch a familiar word or two, but the gist? No. They seem to be speaking a language near yours, like the Sims in "SimCity." The sounds are right, but the words are beyond you. In this video John Cleese gives us a short introduction to the anatomy of the brain. It's complete nonsense. There is only one complete sentence. It comes at the very, very end.
Pity The Poor Closed Caption Robot ...
If you think you're having a stroke — or maybe hearing problems — you're not. He's just THAT good. But for a real giggle, as you listen, click on Closed Caption button at the bottom of the YouTube window. That poor translator bot is like a drowning man in very rough seas; all it can do is fling up words that sound like Cleese's, but its guesses make no sense, have no grammar, and sometimes it just ... freezes. It gives up and goes blank.
In a way, this the real lesson here: John Cleese's brain is so agile (coming up with words and cadences that sound convincingly English, but aren't) and artificial intelligence is so un-agile (not aware it's being duped), that you should be proud, proud, proud to be an intelligent mammal. It will take silicon chips another thousand years to do what Cleese does. So we're safe. For a little while.
Robert Krulwich is co-host of Radiolab, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning program that examines big questions in science, philosophy and the human experience through compelling storytelling. Today, Radiolab is one of public radio's most popular shows. Its podcasts are downloaded over 4 million times each month and the program is carried on 437 stations across the nation. In addition to Radiolab, Krulwich reports for National Public Radio. “Krulwich Wonders” is his NPR blog featuring drawings, cartoons and videos that illustrate hard-to-see concepts in science.