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IBM Watson

Smart Machines And What They Can Still Learn From People – Gary Marcus

This is a must-watch video from the Allen Institute for AI for anyone seriously interested in artificial intelligence.  It’s 70 minutes long, but worth it.  Some of the highlights from my perspective are:

  • 27:27 where the key reason that deep learning approaches fail at understanding language are discussed
  • 31:30 where the inability of inductive approaches to address logical quantification or variables are discussed
  • 39:30 thru 42+ where the inability of deep learning to perform as well as Watson and the inability of Watson to understand or reason are discussed

The astute viewer and blog reader will recognize this slide as discussed by Oren Etzioni here.

Deep Learning, Big Data and Common Sense

Thanks to John Sowa‘s comment on LinkedIn for this link which, although slightly dated, contains the following:

In August, I had the chance to speak with Peter Norvig, Director of Google Research, and asked him if he thought that techniques like deep learning could ever solve complicated tasks that are more characteristic of human intelligence, like understanding stories, which is something Norvig used to work on in the nineteen-eighties. Back then, Norvig had written a brilliant review of the previous work on getting machines to understand stories, and fully endorsed an approach that built on classical “symbol-manipulation” techniques. Norvig’s group is now working within Hinton, and Norvig is clearly very interested in seeing what Hinton could come up with. But even Norvig didn’t see how you could build a machine that could understand stories using deep learning alone.

Other quotes along the same lines come from Oren Etzioni in Looking to the Future of Data Science:

  1. But in his keynote speech on Monday, Oren Etzioni, a prominent computer scientist and chief executive of the recently created Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, delivered a call to arms to the assembled data mavens. Don’t be overly influenced, Mr. Etzioni warned, by the “big data tidal wave,” with its emphasis on mining large data sets for correlations, inferences and predictions. The big data approach, he said during his talk and in an interview later, is brimming with short-term commercial opportunity, but he said scientists should set their sights further. “It might be fine if you want to target ads and generate product recommendations,” he said, “but it’s not common sense knowledge.”
  2. The “big” in big data tends to get all the attention, Mr. Etzioni said, but thorny problems often reside in a seemingly simple sentence or two. He showed the sentence: “The large ball crashed right through the table because it was made of Styrofoam.” He asked, What was made of Styrofoam? The large ball? Or the table? The table, humans will invariably answer. But the question is a conundrum for a software program, Mr. Etzioni explained
  3. Instead, at the Allen Institute, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Mr. Etzioni is leading a growing team of 30 researchers that is working on systems that move from data to knowledge to theories, and then can reason. The test, he said, is: “Does it combine things it knows to draw conclusions?” This is the step from correlation, probabilities and prediction to a computer system that can understand

This is a significant statement from one of the best people in fact extraction on the planet!

As you know from elsewhere on this blog, I’ve been involved with the precursor to the AIAI (Vulcan’s Project Halo) and am a fan of Watson.  But Watson is the best example of what Big Data, Deep Learning, fact extraction, and textual entailment aren’t even close to:

  • During a Final Jeopardy! segment that included the “U.S. Cities” category, the clue was: “Its largest airport was named for a World War II hero; its second-largest, for a World War II battle.”
  • Watson responded “What is Toronto???,” while contestants Jennings and Rutter correctly answered Chicago — for the city’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

Sure, you can rationalize these things and hope that someday the machine will not need reliable knowledge (or that it will induce enough information with enough certainty).  IBM does a lot of this (e.g., see the source of the quotes above).  That day may come, but it will happen a lot sooner with curated knowledge.

IBM Watson in medical education

IBM recently posted this video which suggests the relevance of Watson’s capabilities to medical education. The demo uses cases such as occur on the USMLE exam and Waton’s ability to perform evidentiary reason given large bodies of text. The “reasoning paths” followed by Watson in presenting explanations or decision support material use a nice, increasingly popular graphical metaphor.

One intriguing statement in the video concerns Watson “asking itself questions” during the reasoning process. It would be nice to know more about where Watson gets its knowledge about the domain, other than from statistics alone. As I’ve written previously, IBM openly admits that it avoided explicit knowledge in its approach to Jeopardy!

The demo does a nice job with questions in which it is given answers (e.g., multiple choice questions), in particular. I am most impressed, however, with its response on the case beginning at 3 minutes into the video.

Natural Language Leadership at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2)

Orin Etzioni is a marvelous choice to lead the Allen Institute for AI (aka AI2).  The NL/ML path is the right path for scaling up the deep knowledge that Paul Allen’s vision of a Digital Aristotle requires.  You can read more about it below and here’s more background on the change in the direction and on some evidence that the path holds great promise.

Going beyond Siri and Watson: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen taps Oren Etzioni to lead new Artificial Intelligence Institute

Artificially Intelligent Educational Technology

Over the last two years, machines have demonstrated their ability to read, listen, and understand English well enough to beat the best at Jeopardy!, answer questions via iPhone, and earn college credit on college advanced placement exams.  Today, Google, Microsoft and others are rushing to respond to IBM and Apple with ever more competent artificially intelligent systems that answer questions and support decisions.

What do such developments suggest for the future of education? (more…)

Neat vs. Scruffy and Watson

Recently, John Sowa has commented on LinkedIn or in correspondence with some of us at Coherent Knowledge Systems on the old adage due to Shanks concerning the Neats. vs. the Scruffies.  The Neats want nice formal logics as the basis of artificial intelligence.  This includes anyone who prefers classical logic (e.g., Common Logic, RIF-BLD, or SBVR) or standard ontologies (e.g., OWL-DL) for representing knowledge and reasoning with it.  The Scruffies may use well-defined technology, but are not constrained by it.  They’ll do whatever they think works, now, whether or not it is a good long term solution and despite its shortcomings, as long as it can obtain immediate objectives.

Watson is scruffy.  It doesn’t try to understand or formally represent knowledge.  It combines a lot of effective technologies into an evidentiary framework that allows it to effectively “guess”.

Today, in response to continued discussion in the Natural Language Processing group on LinkedIn under the topic “This is Watson”, I’m posting the following presentation on Project Sherlock and the Linguist vs. Google and IBM.

Essentially, the neat approach is more viable today than ever.  So, chalk one up for the neats, including Dr. Sowa and Menno Mofait’s comment in that discussion.

During a presentation at CMU after winning the game show,, IBM admitted that in order to get the last leg of improvement needed to win Jeopardy!, they needed to do some “neat” ontological knowledge acquisition, too!

Confessions of a production rule vendor (part 1)

If you are using one of the more popular rules engines, chances are you can blame me.  I popularized the technology of forward-chaining production rules based on the Rete Algorithm.  Others have certainly contributed; my path is the one that led to open-source implementations and many commercial products, including those of IBM, Oracle, SAP, TIBCO, Red Hat, and too many others to mention (e.g., see this).

Today, I want to make clear that the future prospects for production rule technology are diminishing.  My objective here is to explain why most rule-based technologies are no good and why some are much better.  Although production rule technology is much better than most rule-based technologies, I hope to also make clear that in the age of IBM’s Watson, Google’s Brain, and the semantic web, production rule technology is inadequate.

They are not created equal.

Rules have become so pervasive in the software business that vendors of all types of software say they have them.  Consider, for example, that even Microsoft Outlook has rules!

(more…)

Deep question answering: Watson vs. Aristotle

At the SemTech conference last week, a few companies asked me how to respond to IBM’s Watson given my involvement with rapid knowledge acquisition for deep question answering at Vulcan.  My answer varies with whether there is any subject matter focus, but essentially involves extending their approach with deeper knowledge and more emphasis on logical in additional to textual entailment.

Today, in a discussion on the LinkedIn NLP group, there was some interest in finding more technical details about Watson.  A year ago, IBM published the most technical details to date about Watson in the IBM Journal of Research and Development.  Most of those journal articles are available for free on the web.  For convenience, here are my bookmarks to them.