AI with 31 years’ worth of knowledge ready to go to work

Having spent the past 31 years memorizing an astonishing collection of general knowledge, the artificial-intelligence engine created by Doug Lenat is finally ready to go to work.

Lenat’s creation is Cyc, a knowledge base of semantic information designed to give computers some understanding of how things work in the real world…

And now, after years of work, Lenat’s system is being commercialized by a company called Lucid.

“Part of the reason is the doneness of Cyc,” explains Lenat, who left his post as a professor at Stanford to start the project in late 1984. “Not that there’s nothing else to do,” he says. But he notes that most of what is left to be added is relevant to a specific area of expertise, such as finance or oncology…

Michael Stewart, a longtime collaborator of Lenat’s and the CEO of Lucid, says the new company is in talks with various others interested in using the Cyc knowledge base. Lucid has been working with the Cleveland Clinic, for example, to help automate the process of finding patients for clinical studies. This involved adding new information to the Cyc knowledge base and a new front-end interface that allows doctors to input natural-language queries such as “Find patients with bacteria after a pericardial window.” Lucid should not only find the right candidate patients but provide a clear chain of logical reasoning for why it selected them…

Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University and the cofounder of an AI company called Geometric Intelligence, says Lucid is interesting because it aims to address some of the shortcomings of popular approaches. “Cyc has a reputation for being unwieldy, and for the last decade hardly anything has been said about it publicly,” Marcus says. “At the same time, it represents an approach that is very different from all the deep-learning stuff that has been in the news.”

Marcus agrees that recent advances, which have enabled computers to process images and audio with human-like skills, are somewhat limited. “Deep learning is mainly about perception,” he says, “but there is a lot of inference involved in everyday human reasoning, and Cyc represents a serious effort to grapple with the subtlety of that inference. I don’t know what will emerge, but I am eager to see.”

The most interesting direction I see in software like this would be in lifetime mentoring – starting with tutoring the very young. The idea being that the AI would learn how their pupil is growing and learning and adjust to provide course correction and a useful level of guidance to aid in choices – without interfering in self-realization, self-guidance.

I’ve studied proposals like that over the past decade. Haven’t yet seen or heard of any long-term success.

2 thoughts on “AI with 31 years’ worth of knowledge ready to go to work

  1. Filmo says:

    “We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”
    HAL (series 9000 Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) “2001, A Space Odyssey (1968).
    “The Case For HAL’s Sanity” by Clay Waldrop
    Footnote: A Nikon Nikkor 8mm F2.8 ‘fisheye’ lens was used for HAL’s ‘eye’ and lit from behind with a 200W Midget Fresnel (AKA: ‘Inky’ ) through some primary red color effect gel (‘party gel’).

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