The ghost in the machine has invaded the social network. Two research groups revealed this week they have developed programmes that imitate humans, using computers to communicate with other humans.
The first research group is from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. A somewhat eccentric team described as “a team of four…[who] when solving a problem lock themselves in a room and communicate by sliding Chinese characters under the door” by Jim Searle a Microsoft executive. They have created computer programmes which imitate Twitter accounts.
One such programme scanned Twitter posts and identified which type of posts occurred most often and emulated them. Such template posts included “I’m not really sure what to put here” and “I hate you and I hope you fucking die.” Imitation of these posts only generated small followings, “we succeeded in generating tweets… [that were] uninteresting and self important but were useless in attracting followers,” reports Li Jifeng, group leader.
A second programme, F.R.I (Frequent Re-post Initiative), “re-tweets” particularly popular posts. Popularity was measured by how many times a message is re-tweeted by other people. This method has gained 10,000 followers. Jifeng concluded “people don’t seem to want people; they want people using computers to repeat what other people have put on computers.”
A second group, based at M.I.T, designed a programme which creates a random Facebook profile, including Name, Age, Hobbies, pretentious quotes and other interesting facts found on a profile. A school is picked at random and friend requests are sent to Homo sapiens who attended this school. 100% of humans accepted the request.
The robot also joined groups so that the profile could express its “uniqueness”. Groups such as “That awkward moment when you go against the first Law of Robotics” and “I passed the Turing Test, LOL JK I’m a machine” were joined. The liking of pages such as “I H8 being woken up by my mum when I’m dreaming of electric sheep” was also observed.
The M.I.T group is optimistic about the results and indicated a future project “we have some preliminary code for a programme that collects information from various news sources, condenses it to a single document and publishes it online.”
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