AI Article              Compiled by Aztech

The following article appeared in Personal Computer World,some time ago, along with a very silly picture of Robin Smith of BT....


British Telecom experiments could turn sci-fi into sci-fact by creating a phone system that literally goes live - that is,if you believe some of the claims of artificial intlelligence experts. The experiments involve creating intelligent software entities called agents, which exist within the phone system and at their most simple negotiate with each other on behalf of users and phone companies.

BT points out that the phone system actually lost intelligence when it 'progressed' from human operators to automatic exchanges. 'You could tell an operator "Get Jim" and she would put you through to Jim,' said Robin Smith strategic development manager at the Intelligent Systems Unit of BT's Martlesham Heath Research centre. 'We aim to put some of the intelligence back'.

Fetching Jim would be a sinmple task for an agent because,like a human operator,it would know you had rung Jim before.Prototype Agents demonstrated at a London Briefing on the project were rather more exciting,but hardly gripping:BT simulated a car driving across a cellular network,with a mobile phone indicating what local services were available,and at what cost - issues that will become increasingly important with the proliferation of service providers.

More advanced systems would involve a huge structural change from centralised Network control to more robust and vastly more versatile distributed management.By the time these come in,online services will be as commonly used as television,and a software agent,which is aware of your interests,could filter the information you receive,rather like newspapers do today.

Such Software is already being developed in the US,as are mobile agents for sending to remote databases to perform complex tasks and return the results.

If the mere thought of all those intelligent entities floating about the system and talking to each other sends shivers down your spine,consider that if they can reproduce themselves(to accomodate for instance,several users on one line)then they fulfil one of the standard indicators of life. Days after the BT briefing,cosmologist Stephen Hawkings described computer viruses as a life form,on the same basis.

Moreover,Smith,who is leading BT's research,describes himself unabashedly as 'a strong AI man' - that is,he believes software will become more intelligent than humans.(-=AH=-:It looks like TODAY'S software has a start on this moron!!!)So,here we have a man injecting intelligence into a system which he believes can become smarter than we are.And we have the possibilty of intelligent,self re-producing entities controlling our information inputs.

More than one Sci-Fi story has depicted the phone system as being alive.One example is British Actor-Playwright Ken Campbell's paranoid TV play Unfair Exchanges,screened by the BBC a few years back and starring Julie Walters.Campbell said last month:'A live phone system?I believed it at the time.It f(Ph)reaked me out.Now im getting nervous of the television.'

Clive Akass

Can you -believe- this shit?As if BT dont have enough on their plate,they are looking towards dissasembling the PSTN to implement this AI malarky. Have they learnt no lessons from the Hassle Bell had implementing the 1AESS system? Jesus,even attempting this at this point in time would mean financial suicide! The SNS needs to implemented before they can even think about adding bells and whistles,and before that,System X needs to be gradually phased out,which could take forever,knowing BT. Or do they know something we dont?