Reflections: Model View Controller, Chatbots

Hi, it’s another week (week 3) down at Alpha Camp. This week, we learnt how to do an online photo album using Ruby on Rails, where the user can upload photos to the model(database).

I find this module a bit tough to understand because it introduces quite a bit of technical terms, you may call it jargon; it’s quite abstract and there’s a heap of folders and files generated. But I’m slowly going through it to understand what each component does.

I think what’s interesting is how Rails came to be. One guy who had lots of experience in designing/creating websites and databases saw how messy and repetitive it was, decided to come up with a framework (or library), and a way of defining the structure so that it’s not only faster to develop and get a website running, there’s also a common base for different developers to build on. So whenever you open up a rails site, even if it’s built by someone else, the folders still have familiar names which store familiar components, and you know which is which.

On another note, I’ve been thinking about what to do for our project. One idea I’m interested in is a chatbot. Sort of like Bus Uncle. When it first came out, I was quite blown away. Even though some of the responses were repeated, and even though the app wasn’t particularly quick in giving you the information you want (what bus coming at what time) and other apps can give you more than one bus’s info, I still used Bus Uncle more as it felt like I was engaging with a person. Even though I clearly know it’s a robot. But you know how people even talk to soft toys sometimes, we have a way of personifying objects. There’s an illusion or suspension of disbelief.

I think it’s amazing how far AI has developed in the recent one or two years. It’s almost by leaps and bounds. There’s AlphaGO playing GO against instances of itself and leveling up (sort of like Naruto who cloned himself so that he could get 2X or 100X results from training within a short time) and there’s computers playing atari games and learning from a blank slate through trial and error how to beat the game. Machine learning? I read that there’s also computers reading thousands of scripts so that they can come up with more interesting dialogue. That’s awesome. Although I do fear if computers are able to take over scriptwriting jobs one day.

Anyway, I think people have such busy lifestyles nowadays, and especially for older folks who have work/family and seldom meet up with their friends, there’s a gap for a listening ear in their lives. I know there’s facebook and instagram and whatsapp, but sometimes there’s certain things you’re unable to tell your friends or family. So perhaps if there’s someone you can talk to at your convenience (you don’t have to make an appointment like with a friend), it doesn’t matter if it’s a robot, as long as it can tell you a joke or make you smile – at your lowest point, that would be a most welcome relief anyway.

So maybe, if you have a chatbot that can ask you about your day and make you smile, and show that it cares about you (as it remembers your previous responses and references them), then when you give your answers and reflect on your day, you’re able to think things through and come out feeling more positive or lighter, that would be nice. It’s not a huge improvement, but it oils your day-to-day life.

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