Scientists work towards developing common sense in computers

Sunday, October 11, 2009

LONDON - Though progressive in nature, yet highly sophisticated computer is no match to a child’s common sense, as machines are not blessed with reasoning power. But artificial intelligence scientists are aspiring towards enabling computers to have human-level intelligence by developing a commonsense knowledge base.

Robert Sloan, professor and head of computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago with colleague Gyorgy Turan, is working on theoretical foundations to bring artificial intelligence closer to everyday human reasoning.

However, he insists it is a difficult aim.

He said: “It’s been the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence research since its early days to answer questions that a young child can answer about the world. We’re still a long way from that.”

They were recently awarded a three-year, 500,000 dollars as National Science Foundation grant to develop algorithms for use in building commonsense knowledge bases that can evolve.

Turan said: “”You can view this evolving process as a kind of learning about the world by a computer.

Our task is to understand the problem, find useful mathematical models, understand the basic mathematical properties and, hopefully, provide some efficient computational methods and algorithms in those models.”

Their project includes looking at the construction of current Web-based commonsense knowledge base systems, such as Cycorp’s “Cyc” and MIT’s “Open Mind Common Sense,” that allow any user to enter bits of knowledge considered relevant, useful or interesting.

The researchers will delve into questions such as how to deal with contradictory information that is entered and how to organize knowledge in formats that are useful for deriving further knowledge.

Solan said: “The issue is how to process new information that comes in over time. One crisply defined algorithmic problem is how do you incorporate the new information both efficiently and in a reasonable way? Of course, defining the meaning of ‘reasonable’ is a challenging problem in itself.”

Graduate students and postdoctoral staff at the UIC will try to concentrate on the interaction between different subtasks of evolving commonsense knowledge bases and on developing efficient computational methods.

A success in the research could lead to improved robots and other automated devices.

Turan said: “Currently we’re studying abstract mathematical versions of these problems, but we hope the conclusions will lead to useful, practical tools”. (ANI)

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