So it is remarkable that three NYT articles appear this month that take AI seriously. All focus, more or less, on business aspects of AI. While the topic of artificial intelligence has grown up with electronic digital computing, its reputation has been tarnished by its percieved failures and shortcomings. This attitude is changing, and the Times is catching up:
For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords.
For decades, computer scientists have been pursuing artificial intelligence — the use of computers to simulate human thinking. But in recent years, rapid progress has been made in machines that can listen, speak, see, reason and learn, in their way. The prospect, according to scientists and economists, is not only that artificial intelligence will transform the way humans and machines communicate and collaborate, but will also eliminate millions of jobs, create many others and change the nature of work and daily routines.
“We are looking to augment human capability,” said Norman Winarsky, vice president for licensing and strategic programs at SRI. “But with artificial intelligence.”
Established in 1946 by Stanford University, SRI created early prototypes of the computer mouse and the technologies involved in ultrasound and HDTV.
Although SRI does roughly 80 percent of its work for the federal government, many of its technologies have been adapted for commercial purposes. Recently, the institute has set its sights on the mobile phone and Web market, especially on creating applications that perform personal functions.