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» Life and Technology - Computers Will Know Us Better than We Know Ourselves, National Post

Life and Technology - Computers Will Know Us Better than We Know Ourselves, National Post

Life and Technology - Computers Will Know Us Better than We Know Ourselves, National Post

The day is not far off when your computer will be a better judge of your mood and desires than your spouse, according to some of the top minds in the computer industry. 'Computers will know us better than we know ourselves and will make the best decisions for us', said Ted Selker, an IBM Fellow. 'It's already starting to happen.'

He envisions a personal computer that knows when you're happy or sad. Or a clothing rack in a department store that understands your tastes and preferences better than you do. Or a car phone that knows not to distract you when you're weaving through traffic. Or even a steak knife that sniffs out bad meat before you eat it. Selker recently organized a gathering of the industry's elite at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, for the seventh annual New Paradigms for Using Computers Workshop. The event attracted such visionaries as Gordon Bell of Microsoft and Will Wright, creator of the popular SimCity software game. Rosalind Picard, a presenter at the conference and a professor at the Massachussets Institute of Technology Media Lab, said we are fast approaching the age of 'affective computing'. Essentially, this means people will begin to interact with computers the same way they do with other humans.

'When someone gives you advice at a bad time or when you're really busy, you may try to ignore them or glare at them to go away', said Picard. 'Usually, they'll get the gist and back off.' Computers do not have the emotional intelligence to pick up on these signals. These days computers that try to show signs of 'intelligence' often end up by being annoying. For example, a user of Microsoft Word may occasionally be bombarded with random messages that pop up on the screen with instructions on how to work with the software. There is nothing to prevent the messages appearing at a time when the user does not want to be disturbed. That's why a host of technologists, including Picard, are striving to teach computers to recognize human feelings and react in the appropriate manner. So how should a computer act? According to Picard, it should act like a dog.

'When you come home from work, your dog is so happy to see you,' she said. 'But if you're in a bad mood, your dog will somehow sense that and assume an empathetic position. Machines, too, must give the illusion of empathy and sympathy.'

At the workshop, IBM displayed for the first time its Emotion Mouse, which can measure heart rate and body temperature and ultimately sense whether the user is happy, sad, angry, fearful or perplexed. Though still a prototype, the Emotion Mouse may be ready to hit the market within two years, say the scientists of IBM. As for a practical application, IBM believes the product could be ideal for people who work in call centres. 'The goal of a call centre manager is to take his people off the job before they go berserk,' said Chris Dryer of IBM. 'Emotion Mouse can sense when call centre reps are getting frustrated and can let them know they should take a break.'

IBM is also in the early stages of piloting another intelligent system called Simple User Interest Tracker (Suitor) that pays attention to a computer user's behaviour and actions. Through a miniature camera embedded in a monitor, Suitor carefully follows the user's gaze to determine his or her interests and information needs. The tracking system is called 'Blue Eyes.'

If you are reading an online magazine, for example, Suitor can monitor your eye gaze to determine where on the screen you are looking and then do an external web search on its own to find additional information about that topic.

Though still in its infancy, computer intelligence is not science fiction, Selker said.

'The price of sensors and cameras has gone way down,' he said. 'I can get these things for a couple bucks.'

But do we really want our computers to think and feel and act like us? In the words of one conference participant: 'The world is artificial enough. I fear we'll be drifting off even farther into a world of fake emotions and feelings.'

San Francisco Chronicle

National Post, July 31/1999


Reading Comprehension

Which is the main idea of the article?

Make up a list of 'for' and 'against' arguments as far as the 'emotion mouse' is concerned.

What is 'Blue Eyes'? And how do you think it will change man's life?

Do you agree or disagree with the final statement? Argument your answer.

Look up the following words in a dictionary.

to envision rack berserk

to weave gist artificial

to sniff empathy fake

to glare infancy additional

to strive spouse ultimately

Vocabulary Practice

Paraphrase the following sentences.

a) My dressmaker made me an off the rack suit.

b) After the car accident she is on the rack.

c) I have been racking my brains trying to remember his name.

d) This country is going to rack and ruin. We need a change of Government.

Give other collocations with 'rank'.

2. Give synonyms of the italicised phrasal verb in the following sentences.

a) I wouldn't sniff at a chance of a job.

b) He sniffed up the cocaine in no time.

c) The police sniffed out the kidnapper.

Grammar Module

The Article (Articolul)

Articolul este determinantul cel mai frecvent al substantivului si in limba engleza moderna el poate fi reprezentat fie prin forme explicite, exprimate (articolul hotarat si articolul nehotarat), fie printr-o forma "zero', implicit sau neexprimata (articolul zero). Atat articolul hotarat (the) cat si cel nehotarat (a, an) sunt forme neflexibile (nu au desinente) si proclitice (asezate inaintea substantivului).

The Definite Article (Articolul hotarat)

Articolul hotarat din limba engleza este the, echivalentul articolului hotarat enclitic din limba

romana -ul (omul, pomul, castelul), -a (tabla, masa, podoaba), -ua (sacaua, daraua), -le (peretele, scaietele), sau, la plural, -ii (pomii, scaietii, merii), -le (femeile, florile) etc.

The se pronunta [tza:] inaintea sunetelor (nu a literelor) consonantice (the house -casa, the mountain- muntele, the straw hat -palaria de paie) sau semiconsonantice (the union -unirea; uniunea, the wall -peretele; zidul, the university -universitatea) si [tzi] inaintea sunetelor vocalice (the orchid -orhideea, the eye -ochiul, the important question -chestiunea importanta, the honour -onoarea, the hour -ora, ceasul). Atunci cand este puternic subliniat, the se citeste [tzi:] (I said 'the', not 'that').

The form of the definite article: The English definite article is the:

the man  the clock

the egg  the heir

Uses of the definite article:

a)     with nouns already mentioned or known to the speaker:

I saw a girl at the window. The girl was very pretty.

Have you fed the dog?

b)    with nouns followed by a prepositional phrase, a relative clause, or an apposition:

The letter from London arrived yesterday. This is the man who gave me the book. Mr. John, the postman, is a Welshman

c)     with adjectives in the superlative degree;

This is the oldest building in town.

d)    with nouns considered unique:

The sun rises in the east.

e)     with singular nouns used in their general sense:

The horse is a useful animal.

She can play the piano.

f)      with nouns converted from adjectives, denoting a class, nationality, or an abstraction:

We should help the poor.

The French love wine.

The good is often forgotten.

g)     with proper nouns in the plural, denoting a family:

The Browns are nice people.

h)    with proper nouns denoting countries, if they are in the plural, or if they represent a union:

the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom

i)      with proper nouns denoting groups of islands, chains of mountains, deserts, oceans, seas, rivers, channels, canals, straits:

the Bahamas, the Alps, the Sahara, the Pacific Ocean, the Black Sea, The Thames, the English Channel, the Suaz Canal, the Straits of Dover

j) with proper nouns denoting hotels, shops, institutions:

the Hilton, the British Museum, the Midland Bank

k)  with proper nouns denoting ships, trains, planes:

the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, the Comet

l)   with proper nouns denoting newspapers and magazines:

The Time, The Observer

m)  in phrases:

to tell the time - a spune ora; by the way - apropo, in treacat fie spus; to play the fool - a face pe prostul; on the whole - in general; on the one hand - pe de-o parte; to tell the truth - 1) a spune adevarul 2) de fapt, la drept vorbind; in the country - la tara; in the mountains - la munte; at the seaside - la mare; for the time being - pentru moment, deocamdata; to pass the time - a-si (pe)trece vremea; in the morning - dimineata; in the afternoon - dupa-amiaza; in the evening- seara

The Indefinite Article (Articolul  nehotarat)

Articolul nehotarat din limba engleza este a, an, echivalentul articolului nehotarat din limba romana un si o (un om, o nava). A se pronunta [a:] (forma slaba) sau [ei] (forma tare), iar an - [a:n] (forma slaba) sau [aen] (forma tare).

A se foloseste inaintea cuvintelor care incep cu un sunet consonantic sau semiconsonantic (a map - o harta, a good man - un om bun, a window - o fereastra, a university - o universitate), iar an, inaintea celor care incep cu un sunet vocalic (an apple - un mar, an important issue - o problema/chestiune importanta, an hour - o ora, an honest fellow - un om cinstit). Forma tare a articolului nehotarat implica sublinierea, de exemplu: I said an [aen] eye - Am spus un ochi.

A si an - ca si un si o din limba romana - sunt articole proclitice. Ele preceda substantivul: an apple.

1. The forms of the indefinite article

The English indefinite article is a, before a word beginning with a consonant or semi-vowel, and an, before a word beginning with a vowel:

a man an egg

a wall a bad egg

2. Uses of the indefinite article

a) with nouns representing a single item of a class:

Give me a pen, please!

b) instead of the numeral 'one':

I've bought a table and four chairs.

c) with singular nouns used in a general sense:

A baby requires special care.

d) with nouns denoting a profession, religion, class:

She is a student. He is a Christian. They called him a fool.

e) in certain expressions of measurement:

I have English lessons three times a week.

Apples are 40p. a pound.

f) with proper nouns denoting an unknown person, a member of a family, or a person with certain characteristics:

He is a Don Juan.

He is a Kennedy.

g) in phrases:

to be in a hurry - a se grabi, to have a headache - a avea o durere de cap, o migrena,, all of a sudden - brusc, deodata, to take an interest in -a avea un interes, for a time - (pentru) un timp, lend me a hand - da-mi o mana de ajutor, once upon a time - odata ca niciodata, to set an example - a da un exemplu, to pay a call on - a face o vizita (cuiva), without a penny - fara un ban, just a moment! - o clipa!, to have a mind to. - a avea chef sa., to take a fancy to - a indragi (ceva), once in a blue moon - din an in Paste, to keep an eye on - a nu slabi (ceva) din ochi, a few - cativa, cateva, a little - ceva, niste, many a (poetic) - multi, multe, to catch a cold - a raci, with a view to (+ -ing) - cu/in scopul de a, to have an/the impression that - a avea impresia ca, as a rule - de regula, in general, (to work several hours) at a stretch - (a munci mai multe ore) in sir, fara intrerupere, as a matter of fact - de fapt, adevarul este (ca), at a bargain- de ocazie; chilipir.

The Zero Article (Articolul zero)

Atat in limba engleza cat si in limba romana, numeroase substantive apar in propozitie

neinsotite de nici un articol, de exemplul:

(-) Peter is a student.

(-) Petre e (-) student.

(-) Breakfast is served at 7.30.

Micul dejun se serveste la 7,30.

(-) Theory without (-) practice is useless.

Teoria fara (-) practica e inutila/ nefolositoare.

The book is on the chair.

Cartea e pe (-) scaun.

"Lipsa' sau "absenta' articolului este insa numai aparenta; mai exact "lipseste' un articol exprimat (the, a, an, sau, in limba romana, -ul, -a, un, etc.) pentru ca o anumita functie a articolului este intotdeauna prezenta in substantivul respectiv.

Uses of zero article

a)     with uncountable nouns or plural nouns used in a general sense:

Oil is lighter then water.

Books are his best friend.

b)    with proper nouns denoting persons:

Mary, Richard, Professor Jones

c)     with proper nouns denoting continents, countries, regions, towns:

Europe, England, Lancashire, London

d)    with proper nouns denoting mountains, lakes, capes:

Mount Everest, Lake Superior, Cape Cod

e)     with proper nouns denoting buildings, streets, bridges:

Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Waterloo Bridge

f)      with proper nouns denoting months, festivals, days of the week:

July is my favorite month.

He is going there at Easter.

We are leaving on Monday.

g)     with proper nouns denoting magazines and periodicals:

Newsweek, Punch

h)    with nouns like school, church, hospital, prison, when we imply the use made of the building:

He goes to school (to learn).

i)      with nouns denoting meals and seasons:

I have dinner at seven.

Spring is coming.

j)      with nouns denoting languages:

She speaks English. 

k)    with nouns denoting a profession or an office held at one time by one person only:

They appointed him manager.

l)      in phrases:

from time to time - din cand in cand, by means of - cu ajutorul, at random - la intamplare, by sea - pe mare, by land - pe uscat, by air - cu avionul, on sale - de vanzare, in comert, last night - aseara, next day - a doua zi, next week - saptamana viitoare, at dawn - in zori, at sunset - la apus, at night - noaptea, in case - in cazul cand, in case of - in caz de, to live from hand to - a trai de azi pe maine, in front of - in fata, inaintea, dinaintea, day by day - zi dupa zi, to be in trouble - a avea probleme, by mistake - din greseala, in silence - in liniste.


Fill in the blanks with the required articles.

1) Do you like ... tea with milk?

a) zero

b) the

c) a

2) .... Love is more important than ...work.

a) the .the

b) zero . zero

c) a . a

3) I've forgotten my watch. What is ... time?

a) a

b) the

c) zero

4) When you are having fun ... time goes very quickly.

a) zero

b) the

c) a

5) ... fruit and ... vegetables are good for our health.

a) a .a

b) the . the

c) zero . zero

Supply the required articles.

1) He speaks with .... great authority on the subject. He is consulting with .. authority on urban development.

2) ... water used in this beer comes from a special spring. In order to survive, we must have ... water.

3) ... genius is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. ... genius of Edison is universally recognized.

4) ... silver in this ring is of inferior quality. ... silver is used for money and jewelry.

5) Everyone was impressed by ...sincerity with which he spoke. We all admire ... sincerity.

3. Translate the following phrases.

in the end, in the open air, on the one hand. on the other hand, to take the trouble, to take a walk, to have a good time, to take a seat, in time, to make friends, to shake hands, to take part, to take place.

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