The Phenom – AI That Purposely Confuses


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A piercing sound from the loudspeakers alerted the attention of the attendees who were scattered around the premise during the break, followed by the announcement “please return to the auditorium, the presentation will continue in 30…20…10, 9, 8…1” at which point no sound from the loudspeakers could be heard outside the auditorium. Everyone rushed back in. It was noticeable that Jim never left the room; following the announcement for the break, he temporarily stepped away from the podium to grab a cup of coffee and some pastries, returned to the front, sat down at a small round table behind the podium; there he stayed during the intermission to read through his notes while sipping on the coffee and enjoying the sweet taste of strawberry filling from the pastry he obviously liked. Jim ‘self-isolation was not at all unusual; most every scientist knew he was introvert. To members of the media in the room however, it was a bit odd that the individual at the center of the presentation did not want to be on the spotlight.

When everyone was settled back in, Jim got up, coffee cup still in hand, walked up to the podium, placed the cup on the side, cleared his throat several times, took a sip, cleared his throat again, took another sip, looked straight into the camera as if he were about to make an earth shattering statement. When the camera zoomed in, his face filled the screen; his bulgy eyes and a frowning expression would remind one of the stern look of a parent which might have disapproved of what one might have done. Jim could have been disappointed; the reactions of his peers towards the first part of his presentation left him puzzled. That sort of things is what scientists live for. Excitement was the only acceptable reactions; there was none or very little. Although Jim did not mingle with his peers during the intermission, he was very good at reading facial expressions, a behavior he himself had used quite often. So, Jim could infer what was on his peers’ minds.

Perhaps to verify his interpretation of his peers’ reactions, Jim began with a question: what do you think of what you saw earlier? After pausing for 30 seconds and no one volunteered to answer, Jim repeated the question; it could no longer be construed as rhetorical. Several people, approximately half the audience, stood up. Quite a conundrum! Jim said; show of hand: how many have their last name begin with a Q? No one raised hand. You can all be seated, thank you to all of you who volunteered to answer the question. And my apology for putting you on the spot! I wanted to be sure that at least half the audience was awake. Laughter ensued. Jim smiled, and he got serious.

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