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Paul Allen

“Only full page color ads can run on the back cover of the New York Times Magazine.”

A decade or so ago, we were debating how to educate Paul Allen’s artificial intelligence in a meeting at Vulcan headquarters in Seattle with researchers from IBM, Cycorp, SRI,  and other places.

We were talking about how to “engineer knowledge” from textbooks into formal systems like Cyc or Vulcan’s SILK inference engine (which we were developing at the time).   Although some progress had been made in prior years, the onus of acquiring knowledge using SRI’s Aura remained too high and the reasoning capabilities that resulted from Aura, which targeted University of Texas’ Knowledge Machine, were too limited to achieve Paul’s objective of a Digital Aristotle.  Unfortunately, this failure ultimately led to the end of Project Halo and the beginning of the Aristo project under Oren Etzioni’s leadership at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

At that meeting, I brought up the idea of simply translating English into logic, as my former product called “Authorete” did.  (We renamed it before Haley Systems was acquired by Oracle, prior to the meeting.)

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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.

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