‘One Small Step For {IBM}; One Giant Leap For {Watson}.’ Michio Kaku / Big Think on Jeopardy! Master, Watson.

From Big Think / Michio Kaku:

http://bigthink.com/ideas/30754

What this contest showed was that, in a very specialized area, machines can do better than humans. This involves answering questions that are posed in a highly stylized way, suitable for the Jeopardy! TV program. This does not involve answering questions that are posed, off-the-cuff, by an ordinary person using colloquial, conversational English.

This narrow achievement has vast commercial implications. For example, in the future we might talk to a “robo-doc” in our wall screens, which looks just like a human, but is actually a software program. We would ask this “doctor” on our wall screen medical questions (in a special format) and it would answer, say, perhaps 95% of the common questions that humans ask a doctor. Similarly, “robo-lawyer” would answer most of the basic questions concerning the law. These software programs could vastly increase the efficiency of society and reduce health-care costs.

But there are important limitations. The key limitation facing AI is mastering something we take for granted, which is common sense. We know, for example, that:

water is wet, not dry
strings can pull, not push
sticks can push, but not pull
mothers are older than their daughters.
There is no line of mathematical logic or computer code that explains these statements. These are simple facts about our world that we learn the hard way, through experience. Unfortunately, there are probably hundreds of millions of lines of common sense necessary to simulate the common sense of, say, a five-year old child.

IBM’s Watson computer, although it is a marvel of computer power, is inadequate to answer questions that involve the common sense of a child.

But what about the far future, when robots finally attain the common sense ability of a human? For more on this question, please consult my new book, Physics of the Future, out in March.

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