ROBOT: REA, the virtual real estate agent

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 22:15:52 MST

From: <>
> This is not a nice state to be in, so I suggest we handle
> this dangerous transition period with extreme care.

Good advice. Yes, the advent of AI portends dangerous opportunities, as
crisis watchers generally agree. Whoever gets there first will have a huge
advantage, even if the first quasi-human competitive AI is an autistic
savant that can only broker mortgages to the 5 nines. A few days ago CNN
broadcast the development of REA, a virtual real estate agent.

And another MIT blurb:
Gesture and Narrative Language
Our group at the MIT Media Lab studies how artifacts such as agents and
toys can be designed with psychosocial competencies, based on a deep
understanding of human linguistic, cognitive, and social abilities. We are
part of the Learning and Common Sense section of the Lab, and a member of
both the Things That Think and Digital Life consortia.

Ethics of artificial intelligence
REA is real estate agent operating out of the media lab at MIT. But REA is
no ordinary realtor providing house tours to potential buyers, she's an
avatar, or bot. And unlike bots who rely on text only, she is going where
few bots have gone before. REA draws upon speech recognition, gestures,
and other non-verbal signals.

A really successful REA will put 400,000 real estate professionals out of
work in California alone. Dangerous transition period, indeed. I predict
that when they get the bugs worked out of these almost-AIs, they'll start
popping up everywhere. (Cost ea.: one or two hundred thousand.) Just go
online to buy real estate, legal assistance, psychonomic consultation,
medical opinions (digital camera required), or any kind of expert advice.

Stay hungry,

--J. R.
3M TA3

Useless hypotheses: consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind,
free will

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