The advance of artificial intelligence – MoneyWeek

Whatissospecialabouthim?

Buildingamachinethatisabletounderstandaquestionposedbyapersonandrespondwithaprecise,factualanswerhaslongbeentheholygrailofartificialintelligence(AI)research。

In1997,IBMssupercomputerDeepBluefamouslybeatthegrandmasterGarryKasparovatchess。

Butchessisaperfectlylogicalgameandcaneasilybereducedtomaths,whichcomputershandlebrilliantly。

Languageismuchmoreslippery。

Jeopardy!

contestantsneednotonlyencyclopaedicknowledge,buttheabilitytounravelconvolutedclues,ofteninvolvingwordplay。

Inareverseoftheusualquizformula,contestantsaregivenananswerandhavetoprovidethequestion?

HowdoesWatsondoit?

Watsonsextraordinaryspeedallowshimtousemorethanahundredalgorithmssimultaneouslytoanalyseaquestionthousandsofdifferentways,generatinghundredsofpossiblesolutions。

Anothersetofalgorithmsrankstheseaccordingtoplausibility。

Oncedozensworkingindifferentdirectionsallarriveatthesameanswer,theprobabilityofitbeingcorrectincreases。

ButWatsoncanstillappearstupid。

Forinstance,hewouldstrugglewiththeclue,Lookinthisdirectionandyoullseethewainscoting,becausetheanswer,Whatisdown?

isrootedinhumansocialexperience。

Thatsaid,Watsonismorethanjustanexpensivepublicitystunt。

TheproblemwithDeepBluewasthatitsexpertisedidnttranslatetoreal-worldbusinessproblemsandthereforedidlittleforIBMsbottomline。

Cuttingthetimeittakestoanswerverydifficultquestionshasobviousappeal。

Legalfirms,forexample,needtosiftthroughcaselawfasttofindausefulprecedentorcitation。

Help-deskworkershavetonegotiateenormousdatabasestofindanswersforiratecustomers。

IBMisalreadylookingatspecificapplicationsinmedicineandhealthcare,helpdesk,techsupportandbusinessintelligence?

Sowhatnext?

IBMannouncedpartnershipprogrammeswitheightAmericanuniversitieslastweek,meantinparttoexploreapplicationsforthisnewtechnology。

ThefirmplanstocollaboratewithColumbiaUniversityandtheUniversityofMarylandtocreateaphysiciansassistantandwithNuanceCommunicationstoaddvoicerecognition。

Thisservicecouldbeavailableinaslittleas18months。

Therearehighhopes。

Apatientssymptoms,medicalhistory,physicalexamfindingsandlaboratoryresultspresentcluesthatmustbesynthesisedintoadiagnosis。

Watsonwouldavoidthecommontrapoffixingonafamiliardiagnosisandwronglyattributingsymptomstoasinglecause?

WhenmightweseeaWatsoninday-to-dayuse?

Watsonishugeandneedstorunonatleastone$1mIBMserver。

ButJohnKelly,headofIBM’sresearchlaboratories,predictsthatwithintenyearsaWatsoncouldrunonaserverthatanysmallfirmcouldafford,andafewyearsafterthatonalaptop。

Theideaisntsofar-fetched:theaveragemobilephoneisaboutamillionththesizeandamillionththepriceofacomputerfromtheearly1970s。

Plusitsfarmorepowerful。

Shouldwebeafraid?

Humanshavealwaysadjustedasmachineshavetakenoverchores。

Yetsuchadvancesinevitablyprovokefears。

AIsystemsarenotinfallible。

Millisecondtradingcomputers?

onWallStreetfirmsmayhavebeentoblameforlastMayswildstockmarketplunge。

Woulddoctorsbekeentoactonasplit-secondanswerfromaWatson?

Iftheyignorehim,howwoulditlookinanegligenceclaim?

Ultimately,asscientistStephenWolfram(inventoroftheWolfram-Alphasearchengine)says,Watsonmaybegoodwithfacts,buthelackstwovitalhumanqualities:wisdomandjudgement。

Aremachinesnowclevererthanus?

Notyet–Watsonexcelswithinverylimitedparameters。

Hecannotcomeupwithnewideas,makejokes,orhaveaconversation。

AndhesalongwayfrompassingtheTuringtest,wherebyamachinecouldnotbedistinguishedasnon-humanfromitsreplies。

Nevertheless,therearethosewhobelievethatthatdayisnotfaroff:2029,accordingtoRayKurzweil,theAmericanentrepreneur,inventorandscientist。

Kurzweilarguesthatbecausecomputingpowerhasproventogrowexponentiallyratherthanlinearly(ie,computersgetfastermorerapidly),by2045theywillbemoreintelligentthanhumans。

ThispointisknownastheSingularity。

Whatwouldhappennextisunknowablebecauseifwecouldpredictthebehaviourofthesecyborgs,wedbeascleverasthem。

Althoughalotofpeoplethinkthetheoryisnonsense,lastyearsSingularitysummitattractedcomputerscientists,neuroscientists,nanotechnologistsandmolecularbiologists。

Watsonisalongwayfromwhat’sknownasstrongartificialintelligence。

Buthemayrepresentasteponthatroad。

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