Insights: Computer understanding of human behavior

Image of people conversing

For computers, beating the world's best chess player is much easier than knowing when to smile. Although we take such subtleties for granted, we know immediately when someone gets it wrong. Such errors affect our perceptions of "intelligence" -- and will, I think, be a fundamental issue in determining whether we see computer-modeled brains as conscious or human-like.


Modeling human behavior is not a focus of the big computational efforts, such as the Human Brain Project. But if my guess is right that such efforts will eventually create "brains" with creative thought, public reaction will be determined in large part by whether these thoughts fit our current understandings of humanity in terms of presentation and sensitivity to context. In other words, we'll look first for the smile -- and we'll rebel if it's not there.


I've created several articles and videos about how computers understand human behavior for ACM: Here's a taste.


Computationally Modeling Human Emotion from CACM on Vimeo.

This post is the third in a series of four:

  1. Supercomputing and quantum computing

  2. Artificial intelligence

  3. Computer understanding of behavior (this post)

  4. Soon to come: insights from computational biology.