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The incredible question answering machine

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11 March 2009


Wolfram Alpha has been built in a sort of retro design, which makes it the more awe-inspiring.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - A workgroup of mad scientists has set out to push artificial intelligence to a new level. The start of Wolfram Alpha, an internet-powered question answering engine, is scheduled for May and will wipe out any other sort of information service like Google, the CIA, or office gossip.

The makers have stated that the thing will be able to answer questions asked in natural language. On further inquiry, they had to admit it was actually human language they were talking about, since nature has not yet started to talk. They also wished to express that the machine had neither the intention nor the capabilities to take over the world. While this is a little disappointing, the half-hidden malicious grin of inventor Stephen Wolfram (or Alpha Wolf as he could be tentatively called) tells another story.

Anyway, of course there are restrictions in what even the smartest software might do. The engine can only process questions that have unambiguous and computable answers. For example, it cannot answer questions like "where's my wife right now?" due to the fact that it does neither know you, nor the number of your wives, nor which one you are talking about. On the other hand, a question like the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, will be answered easily since the answer is computable, however, the computing time might be an issue in this case.

The Wolfram Alpha will also come online with 'Gender Simulating Personality Technology, or GSPT(c). At the flick of a switch the Wolfram will be able to simulate the answers given by either a male or female all-knowing being. Users can then pose questions which can be answered by a male or female perspective, such as: "Does my girlfreind really love me?" To which the female version will dissertate a long deep and meaningful discussion about relationships and how he has treated you; the male version will answer with a single monosyllable grunt. Earlier prototypes of the Wolfram Alpha were tested by connecting a female Wolfram to a male Wolfram, resulting in a ultimate feud and the male Wolfram only answering in grunts.

Other versions of the Wolfram Alpha GSPT(c) in current development include the Oscar Wilde personality, a quick and witty personality capable of running circles around anyone, and the Wolfram Beta personality that timidly agrees with everything you say.

We at UnNews are by all means excited about the whole concept and await the start of the project with impatience. Some of the cardinal questions of satire might be finally answered then, like: "Are there intelligent answers to dumb questions?" The first satire is already online: wolframsbeta.com gives correct answers to questions like the atomic number of Molybdenum or the exact age of Kurt Cobain in 2009. In any case, the answer is "42".

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