Hello fellow Internet strangers.
This is an introduction to me as much as an introduction to this blog. I’m an anonymous hacker who really likes Python. I like the language, I like the community, I like Python. I use Python both professionally and as a hobby and have been doing so for about 10 years.
I don’t blog, at least, I didn’t. This is my attempt to rectify that. I don’t have a compelling reason as to why it needs to be rectified but I’m starting a new project and needed a place to document that so… blogging?
The project is an homage to SHRDLU. To lift the description from its homepage: SHRDLU is a program for understanding natural language, written by Terry Winograd at the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 1968-70. SHRDLU carried on a simple dialog (via teletype) with a user, about a small world of objects (the BLOCKS world) shown on an early display screen (DEC-340 attached to a PDP-6 computer).
As you can see from that description 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the creation of SHRDLU. As such I decided that I would pose the question (to myself) “What would SHRDLU look like if it were started in 2018”. Back in 1968 Terry Winograd was at the beginning of his PhD having graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from Colorado College. Fast forward 50 years to 2018 and you’ll discover I too have a non-CS college degree and access to a computer, which makes us basically the same person. So with this great presumptuousness under my belt I’ve decided to tackle the task of recreating a foundational and groundbreaking piece of AI research.
In my defense this isn’t actually the first time I’ve recreated SHRDLU. A few years ago, before Alexa or Cortana or OK Google or any of the hundred other virtual assistants were around I decided that I would create a natural language processing system with voice or typed input that would control various devices in both the real and a virtual world. After working on this for a few months I read about “a system from MIT where you could use English to move blocks”. Now either Google wasn’t as good back then or I was missing a few important key words because for the life of me I couldn’t find anymore about it then that. I forged on naively and got something working that was actually pretty neat. I could turn on the lights in my house by speaking to my phone, the system would ask clarifying questions if it wasn’t sure on something and I could turn on my Christmas lights and hear our nerdy Star Trek ornament say “Qapla’”. Trust me, prior to Google Home this was all pretty amazing. But then the predictable happened, people who actually knew what they were doing released their products to the world and reality collided with my naive dreams.
So this time around I’m not setting out with blinders on trying to change the world, I’m just going to give myself a few years to answer the “What would SHRDLU look like today?” question.
Most of the answer to that question I have no idea on, however being that it is 2018 there are some things we know for sure: the world is more than simple blocks, the interface will be spoken as well as typed, and there will be some sort of deep learning that I’ll shoehorn in there somewhere to win buzzword bingo at the local nerd club!