The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.
Two points of interest here: The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements. Note how this could be both used and abused.
There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says. How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!” Attention to context, of course, would help. (Note to government monitors of this blog: The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.) But there is not always clear context. “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more…]