As Cindy Rose pointed out on stage at Future Decoded today, artificial intelligence (AI) is already a part of our everyday lives - often working beneath the surface where we cannot see it.
But what is the point of AI if we only ask it to learn boring things?
Opening Microsoft's Future Decoded at London's ExCel, Microsoft's UK boss Rose claimed that this, the fifth instalment of the forward-looking tech event, is the one that its four predecessors have really been leading up to.
The main focus of this one, she said, is AI.
Rose rattled through a few fairly mundane use cases of where AI is proving useful in enterprises - such as analysing productivity and translating languages - but paused to give the audience a more colourful example: Microsoft's AI is a Shakespeare expert. Sort of.
A Microsoft engineer, she explained, has applied "AI sentiment analysis" to Shakespeare works including Romeo and Juliet.
What this essentially means is the AI has ‘read' the entire play and analysed the emotions of each character, displaying it in a graph (see below).
Interestingly, Rose said, the AI comes up with a different assessment of the characters' emotions compared with popular studies.
"I'm not sure the great bard would have appreciated his literary works been run through a cognitive services algorithm, but it does offer some interesting insights into both the power of AI and the limitations of AI today," the CEO explained.
"This is AI sentiment analysis in action. Spoiler alert: if you don't know how it ends yet, you may want to look away now.
"You can see that this view highlights the highs and lows of the play, the key dramatic points, the plot twists and turns and so on. What I find interesting here is the AI shows that it is actually Romeo (the blue line), not Juliet, who suffers from extreme emotional volatility, which is a bit different to how you learn it in school.
"This is really amazing to me because no matter how big a fan of Shakespeare you are, no human has the capability to read the entire works and provide instant plot and character analysis in one sitting. AI has the power to do that."
Microsoft AI may be a Romeo and Juliet connoisseur, but it fared less well when psychoanalysing the Prince of Denmark (see below).
Where Hamlet is riddled with plot twists, and hidden motives, the AI wavers.
"When you dig a bit deeper and you start to run the algorithm over some of his more complicated works - like Hamlet, for example, where the plots are layered - the dialog is nuanced, the madness is pretend and the deception is mingled with truth - you see AI start to struggle to understand it."
"Hamlet is one of the most well-known tragedies in the world, but the AI recognises it as a happy story."
While a novelty experiment, the project does provide useful information to Microsoft.
Rose explained that the results help the vendor establish how far AI understanding of human emotion can be pushed.
"I think this is just a great example of the power and limitations of AI and, at least with respect to this particular dataset, maybe it says that only humans are uniquely able to comprehend the richness and depth of emotion, [to] decipher the true meaning of the author," she said.
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