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DARPA Contracts For AI Technology 403

Posted by timothy
from the that-darn-skynet-is-already-late dept.
heptapod writes "USA Today is reporting that DARPA has contracted two professors from RPI to develop artificial intelligences that can learn by reading and understanding natural language. Interesting taking DARPA's Grand Challenge into account. Mentioned in the article is Cycorp, Inc. which has been pursuing this goal since 1994!"
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DARPA Contracts For AI Technology

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  • First Turing! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:17PM (#11547082)
    > artificial intelligences that can learn by reading and understanding natural language.

    "First passing of the Turing test!"

  • by cyberkahn (398201) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:17PM (#11547083) Homepage


    DARPA announced today the funding for Skynet.

  • CycCorp (Score:2, Informative)

    by TheKidWho (705796)
    What they are doing is very interesting. By compiling the majority of human knowledge into a gian database, it should make AI development much easier to pursue.
  • This is AI? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KSobby (833882) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:23PM (#11547116)
    Teaching a machine to read a text book and answer questions doesn't necessarily mean cognitive reasoning. It's just a new form of input/output. Ask it to write an essay with a definative argument and solid conclusion based on the material read would impress me, not regurgitating facts and figures found in a book.
    • Re:This is AI? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by segmond (34052)
      answering some questions that requires thinking involves cognitive reasoning. If answering questions doesn't involve cognitive reasons, we will not be answering questions in schools, we will be writing essays for every class.
    • AI has always "failed" because every time it's succeeded, the problem it succeeded on has been retroactively defined to "not require intelligence". Cf. automated theorem proving, chess playing, control of chemical plants, and just about any other AI success of 1940s - present.
    • Re:This is AI? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NanoGator (522640) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:04PM (#11547318) Homepage Journal
      "Can a machine create a syphany or comopse a masterpiece?"

      "Can you?"
      • I love that quote. What's it from?
        • "I love that quote. What's it from?"

          Believe it or not: I, Robot. The movie.
          • Believe it or not: I, Robot. The movie.

            Based on the trailer I wasn't interested in the movie. I happened to see it anyway on rental and was surprised that it had nothing to do with the trailer.

            While not the best picture of the year, if you've only seen the trailer, it's not a movie about a killer AI that Will Smith has to hunt down and destroy. There's a bit of thought that went into the picture and a bit of a mystery.

            Worth adding to your Netflix queue anyhow.
            • "Worth adding to your Netflix queue anyhow."

              I've gotta second that. Part of it was that I had low expectations, and part of it was that it was an action flick with a pinch of thought. (Emphasize pinch...) Imagine that. A decent Amisov action flick. Weird.
      • Re:This is AI? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:51PM (#11547556) Homepage Journal
        Actually there was a digital music symposium in the early 90's where a (IIRC) Bach composer was demonstrated. They fed a neural network all the Bach pieces digitally and let it learn from the patterns. Then they set it to composing and it came out with a 5-minute piece that sounded remarkably like Bach. (I'm sure I'm oversimplifying) There was resounding applause for the demo.

        At the end of the talk people were standing around talking to the author of the system when a wirey dark-haired man with beady glasses and an eastern european accent came up to him and shouted, "You've killed Music!" - and clocked the guy, laying him straight out.

        Not everybody is going to handle AI well.
      • Re:This is AI? (Score:3, Interesting)

        "Can a machine create a syphany or comopse a masterpiece?"

        "Can you?"

        I can and I have.

        Hard AI is bullshit. What's happening is this: they know they can't really make a machine think, so they're changing the definitions of thought - lowering the bar, as it were - so they can declare themselves victorious, and all publish their dorky papers and get tenure.

        Losers. The lot of them.

        RS

    • There are some who define A.I. as simply the "bleeding-edge fringes of computer science and computer engineering." This is suggested strongly by the apparent fact that as soon as an algorithm, methodology, or other such computing device is taken up by industry and mass-produced, it has always lost its "A.I." status and merely become, well, I.T., I guess.

    • Teaching a machine to read a text book and answer questions doesn't necessarily mean cognitive reasoning.

      Makes you wonder then. Does America's teenage population have cognitive reasoning?
    • Teaching a machine to read a text book and answer questions doesn't necessarily mean cognitive reasoning. It's just a new form of input/output.

      Parsing post

      Teaching

      [Teaching] - one lexical interpretation: gerund form of "to teach". Part of speech? Unambiguous. Noun. Word sense of Teach? Options: accessing Wordnet... 2 verb senses found... must choose between: v 1: impart skills or knowledge to; "I taught them French"; "He instructed me in building a boat" [syn: learn, instruct] 2: accustom g
    • Teaching a machine to read a text book and answer questions doesn't necessarily mean cognitive reasoning. It's just a new form of input/output.
      OK, then, instead of debating whether this is really AI, let's ask whether this ability would be useful? Yes it would, no question. This is what search engines want to be.
    • ...it might be. Picture a robot that can map-read, tell the driver robot they're going the wrong way, and spill the last of the Mountain Dew on the plush interior. The Turing Test only requires something to be indistinguishable from a person. It doesn't say anything about being rational. :)
  • This AI and natural language thing gives ne deja-vue

    Maybe a start of Prolog version 2. Or an excuse to spend money.

    • This AI and natural language thing gives ne deja-vue

      Don't worry about that, it's just a glitch. It happens sometimes when the AI's change something.
  • Don't Worry (Score:4, Funny)

    by djroute66 (43321) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:25PM (#11547121)
    I have enough dynamite to blow up 10 super-computers!!!
  • Slow down cowboy! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636)
    I don't think we have yet an AI capable of reading and understanding text... so learning from it si far fetched. Except if they say "learning" in the "accumulate lots of data" way, not unlike Google crawling bot, I guess.

    I can't wait for real AI tough. I soooo want a Teddy like in A.I. (the movie)!
    • I can't wait for real AI tough. I soooo want a Teddy like in A.I. (the movie)!

      Yeah, but the rest of us Slashdotters are a little more mature than that. We want something more akin to a Marilyn Monroe-bot like in Futurama (the cartoon)!

    • Well, we'll never get there if no one funds it. This is unfortunately the way our research environment works. Ideas like these seem wildly out of reach, so funding them seems like a waste of money. However, without funding, we will never get any closer to these goals. It's a chicken and egg type of problem.

      Part of research on this grand of a scale is to discover the subproblems necessary to tackle the big problem. Each of these problems may involve a dozen subproblems. After a few years, you have fl

    • Well we do have programs that can parse english sentences (and those from other languages) and create a probable tree structure (noun, verb, adj, etc). There are of course sentences which are meaningless without 'understanding' of context even though they're grammatically valid, and so on, but its a start.

      So the next step would be, as they're trying to do, adding that context-sensitivity which is a form of understanding. But understanding is not the same as thinking: thinking would involve taking all the t
  • What about... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by helioquake (841463) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:27PM (#11547139) Journal
    ...artificial intelligences that can learn by reading and understanding natural language...

    OK, but can it learn from mistakes?
  • by NZheretic (23872) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:29PM (#11547147) Homepage Journal
    OpenCYC.org [opencyc.org] project Sourceforge CVS [sourceforge.net] repository has not beent updated since October 22nd 2003. I hope some of that DARPA money will go a little way towards completeting the 1.0 release.
    • Right on! CyCorps got a lot of people excited and a lot of people to invest time (like me!) - but OpenCyc seems to be going nowhere.

      That said, kudos to DARPA for funding so much AI research. I was on a DARPA advisory panel for a year in 1998 (neural network tools) - lots of fun and interesting because of the other people on my panel.
  • darpa.mil Blocked! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Blaskowicz (634489) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:32PM (#11547161)
    as you know we non americans cannot access darpa.mil
    If something is kind enough to give us a mirror to the "Great Challenge", kudos to him :)

    Or else I'll go through a US proxy. Not a big task, it's just annoying, I'll do that later.. grab an anonymous US proxy on www.proxy4free.com , enter the crap in your browser and enjoy the slowness. Maybe I'll use switch proxy [nettripper.com] this time :)
    • by aussie_a (778472)
      This comment isn't Informative. It's either mistaken or a liar. That or he's in a country that is actively blocked. UK and Australia can access the site just fine.
    • try a coral cache. coral will cache the pages and thus going around their block or using a proxy... in a way, coral IS acting like a proxy.
  • But: (Score:4, Funny)

    by Lost Penguin (636359) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:34PM (#11547177) Homepage
    Can it read books on AI; and then design a better, smarter AI?
  • There was an article that hit the New York times back in the fall of 2004 mentioning Professor Bringsjord and having a computer program write fiction. Perhaps this is to better write stories for elected officials to tell?
  • Artificial? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:39PM (#11547208)
    For all of the thousands of times I've read the phrase "artificial intelligence," it's only recently occurred to me to wonder whether there's a point in using "artificial." Certainly the first flavors of this are at best insect-like, or sort of idiot-savant (like chess playing), but when we first experience a system that's as awake as we're all hoping for... then it's just "intelligence," isn't it?

    I know - read four thousand sci fi novels and then come back to this conversation... but it seems that the "artificial" of this phrase is increasingly awkward. It makes some people dismissive about the potential, other people feaky about the same, and seems destined to always shortcut the philosophical payload. Not because I fret over the machine's eventual feelings (though if it's Linux-based, I'm sure it will have very warm, friendly, altruistic feelings), but because by boxing code-based intelligence into the "artificial" category, it props up the more mystical perception of our own native smarts.

    The very word, from "artiface," suggests that whatever it will be, it won't really count as intelligence. But we're very comfortable (or at least I am) talking about, say, an intelligent dog or primate. So, if we can even approach that with a system that isn't any more fragile than walking, breathing meat... then surely that's not artiface? OK, smack me around now. Thanks.
    • You have a good point, but until we create AI, how are we to talk about it? "Did you read the article on DARPA contracting two scientists to create intelligence?"

      In that context, intelligence may mean information on the enemy (and create it as in make it up ;)). It's a bit of a stretch, but AI is a term everyone immediately knows what you mean. Simple intelligence could mean lots of things.
    • It's understandable but questionable. If we make one with a biological computer, is it suddenly not artificial? If it is, why is it granted it may be identical to a born and raised one (animal vs human doesn't matter)? What if it's a processor able to exactly imitate an intelligence through atomic simulation? Intelligence is already abstract so who needs the physical part of it at all? Is this really any less "real"? Perhaps "detached". I'd like someone (or group) to define actual intelligence once an
    • Add to it that this is "Military Artificial Intelligence" and you have all kinds of oxymoron jokes to pick from.

      Perhaps "Computer Intelligence" would be more descriptive?
    • artificial [reference.com]: 1. a. Made by humans; produced rather than natural....

      3. Not genuine or natural: an artificial smile.

      It's nobody else's fault if you pick the wrong definition, especially when you are preferring a less popular definition. It's also nobody else's fault when you get your etymology wrong; at least according to that entry, "artifice" and "artificial" are siblings, not ancestor-descendant, so drawing conclusions about the meaning of "artificial" from "artifice" is highly suspect at best.

      From where

      • That should have been, "From where I sit, people associating 'artificial' with 'inferior' or 'not as good as the "real" thing' are mostly...".
      • And hence (given popular indigestion over the work "artificial," which was my point, though I didn't make it clearly enough), my gut sense that we need to get that word out of the popular discussion, especially as we start using (what we geeks all more comfortably know to be) AI to do things like fly 600 passenger Airbus A380s. Call it whatever you want (say, "reactive flight control system"), but "AI" has been so tainted by popular entertainment that it's harder to fund, harder to explain, and tends to be
        • Fair enough.

          Looking at it from a poetic viewpoint, I'm not sure anything else has the proper euphony [reference.com], though. You really ought to lead with a four-syllable word if you want to displace Artificial; a two-syllable might work. "Generated Intelligence"? "Machine Intelligence" might work, but it's still not quite as flowing.

          For those who wish to go hunting, you can start in the thesaurus [reference.com], but it should be pointed out that the definition of artificial in question doesn't even show up there; there don't seem to
          • Actually, given the sweaty lust that people have for MP3 players and fancy plasma TVs, how about "Digital Intelligence?" It's a little vague, but some of the best labels are.
  • Cyc is Old (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hugg (22953) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:44PM (#11547234)
    Just to be pedantic ... Cyc as a project has been around at lot longer than Cycorp the company ... since at last 1986, according to this Google/Deja Groups [google.com] post.
    • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:06PM (#11547328) Homepage
      Cyc is basically the bad "expert system" idea from the 1980s, with too much funding. The concept of Cyc is straightforward - have a big staff putting in handwritten rules, and it will be able to answer anticipated questions. Like call centers where the staff just reads scripts. No way is it ever going to become "intelligent". On a really good day, given a narrow enough range of questions in an area where good answers have been preloaded, it can sort of fake it some of the time.

      It's not just canned questions and answers; it has an inference engine. It can do "if A is B and B is C, then A is C". But only if all the right predicates match perfectly.

      Lenat was claming it would somehow become intelligent in a few more years. That was a decade ago. Today, Cyc is regarded as the definitive demonstration that that idea won't work.

      Here's a critique of Cyc from 1994. [stanford.edu]

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:55PM (#11547287) Homepage Journal
    DARPA can really advance the field of AI if it simply offers substantial prize awards for the highest compression ratios achieve for a text corpus of their choosing. There should be separate classes of competition for each of at least time limits for the corpus compressions:
    • 1 hour
    • 10 hours
    • 100 hours

    Each class should have its own championship title of $1 million, with each runner-up winning 1/2 the money of the next higher.

    Each contestant must provide 2 systems -- a compressor and a decompressor. DARPA feeds the compressor the corpus and the compressor feeds DARPA the compressed corpus. DARPA then measures the ratio and feeds the decompressor system the compressed corpus, which then returns the original corpus, or is disqualified. Compression and decompression times must add up to no more than the time limit for the competition class.

    The rationale for this approach to advancing the state of AI is given by a short paper by Matthew Mahoney titled "Text Compression as a Test for Artificial Intelligence [fit.edu]" (1 page poster, compressed Postscript) published in the 1999 AAAI Proceedings. Matt Mahoney shows that text prediction or compression is a stricter test for AI than the Turing test.

    So far there have been lots of promises and decades spent. Let's try something different with well-founded objetive metrics tied to serious near-term commercial incentives for evolutionary progress.

    • by segmond (34052) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:07PM (#11547333)
      Any advance in the field of AI will fetch a gigantic amount of money. No one in their right mind will sell out to DARPA if they have the solution. For example, think of search engines, just a little drop of AI and you will have the best search engine around. Think of language translation, just a little drop of AI and your langauge translation software will be the best. Likewise with a lot of software systems. Once the idea comes to anyone, please believe that they are heading to the patent office first not to collect $1million prize from DARPA.
      • think of search engines, just a little drop of AI and you will have the best search engine around
        What makes you think that an "AI" index of N documents is any better than a simple inverted text index of 2N documents?

        (Or N+1, for that matter, when the 1 is the one you need.)

      • The biggest problem these days is turning a patent into money. That takes a certain set of skills that are usually disjoint with creativity.

        You have been buying the lines from con-artists who claim they're inventors when they're actually tax collectors with an ability to write up neat ideas that almost anyone could come up with except those making judgements about "obviousness" during law suits.

  • Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dolohov (114209) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @10:58PM (#11547297)
    It's a $400k grant with two optional extensions. The school will take half, the profs will take part of their own salaries out of it, and then it'll support a couple PhD and MS students. This is no big deal.
  • hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by revery (456516) <charles@NoSpAm.cac2.net> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:04PM (#11547321) Homepage
    it has always interested me how someone who believes in pure evolution (i.e. order from absolute randomness - disregarding whether there is such a thing or not) believes that we have a chance in hell of actually designing an AI.

    If evolution is true, then the things that we call "order" and "intelligence" are just a higher function of chaos (the inevitable byproduct of randomness). On an even higher level, there is no reason to believe that we are actually designing anything, we are merely exciting our neurons (if they exist) into believing we have perceived that we are performing an action (which in this case is mental, which brings us back to the alleged neurons) that we call designing. If evolution is true, then intelligence will happen regardless of what we do, and we have no reason to believe that we have anything to do with it whatsoever, or could influence it in any way at all if we did.

    As for me, I'll take an Almighty God (as long as he lets me)

    --
    Was it the sheep climbing onto the altar, or the cattle lowing to be slain,
    or the Son of God hanging dead and bloodied on a cross, that told me this was a world condemned but loved and bought with hlood
    • Re:hmmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I take issue with your phrasing. "If evolution is true.." Unless you intended that to be a statement that always yielded true to finish the phrase. Whatever the case I declare shenannigans.

      Evolution isn't chaos except that mutations happen somewhat randomly. The evolutionary process is based on natural selection = fitness for reproduction. If a mutation turns out useless or unattractive for potential mates, it is absorbed uselessly or discarded respectively. There's a lot of process in that. So while evolu
      • Evolution isn't chaos except that mutations happen somewhat randomly.

        where did those rules come from? where did anything come from? what except randomness governed the first combination of proteins? what except randomness brought proteins about? The whole point of evolution is that given sufficient time and sufficient randomness, everything has to happen at some point or another. (I know the Infinite Improbability Drive was a joke, but let's be honest, it strikes a chord with evolutionary thinking doesn't
        • Wrong again.... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by hajihill (755023)
          It was Natural selection the whole time.

          The process is geared to produce things that are: a) Hardier and better equipped at survival, b) better equiped to reproduce themselves in the environment.

          This applies to the basic chemical components and the proteins and the organisms and the etc. The more stable and reproductive a system is the more of them there are likely to be for a longer period of time. The End.

          Read about RNA, it's ability to reproduce in small strands and the abiotic clay-catalyzed sy

    • As for me, I'll take an Almighty God (as long as he lets me)

      No kidding; I figure any God could take you any day (assuming s/he wasn't out late partying the night before), so letting you win would obviously be the result of, "meh, I'll take care of revery on Sunday when all the other wrestling is on and I'm not so busy".
    • by hajihill (755023) <haji_hill@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:50PM (#11547547) Journal
      The parent is suggesting that artificial selection is proof against natural selection.

      And you can't breed dogs or horses or humans or anything else to enhance a specific trait can you?

      The fact of the matter is that we are fundamentally no different from the amoeboid life we evolved from, and the rest of the life that evolved from it, just more complicated. If simple insectoid neuro circuitry can be approximated with simple neural nets (read this [solarbotics.net] for more info on this highly debated subject) it could easily be argued that it is not the distinction between artificial and "natural" intelligence that should be question/examined but the existence and definition intelligence itself, and quite possibly life for that matter. These are concepts as arbitrary and ill-defined as the spirituality that their nay-sayers flaunt so wantonly in protest.

      For christ's sake (pun and capitalization intended), think before you flap your rot. (There's just no escaping them on this subject)
      • The fact of the matter...

        Those first five words can kill you if you're not careful. I think I may have a decent grasp on the things I do not know. The problem with evolution is that most people start building way too advanced. Where did all those rules that govern all those complex reactions come from, and if the reactions can change, why are the rules locked into place? The Devil (pun and capitalization intended) is in the details. So is God.

        --
        Was it the sheep climbing onto the altar or the the cattle lo
    • As for me, I'll take an Almighty God (as long as he lets me)

      Please read this short story [maddad.org].
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The problem here is that there is a distinct disregard for the fact that order cannot exist without chaos, and vice versa. Order and chaos are in fact one and the same. Order comes from chaos, and order returns to chaos every day, but people refuse to see it. Take a simple example, hurricanes. Hurricanes are very ordered structures that exist for indefinite periods of time. But hurricanes cannot exist forever without the right conditions of material and energy. Also the sun a temporary manifestation o
    • Re:hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      Your argument is semantic. We're just going to accept as a given that the cells that generally move around with us are "us", and the things those cells do are "us doing stuff." Because those are useful definitions. Whether we define them that way or we define them as clumps of the universe's randomness, the same thing is happening.

      The AI part seems independent of the other chunk. Your problem looks to be with humans designing anything, so we'll substitute TV for AI, and your post looks something like t
  • Cycorp= (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jaidon (843279)
    Cylons?
  • Good Luck. (Score:3, Informative)

    by headkase (533448) on Tuesday February 01, 2005 @11:36PM (#11547476)
    If there's one thing that the last 60+ years of research into artificial or machine intelligence has shown is that there is no clear definition of intelligence. There are different types of intelligence for example muscle control, visual processing, tactile interpretation, olfactory classifying, and so on. With these rough subdivisions great strides has been made in creating successful "modules" for them, but what has eluded and probably will stay elusive for the near future is the general cognitive intelligence that orchestrates the interplay between the rough subdivisions.
  • 84, not 94 (Score:3, Informative)

    by real gumby (11516) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @12:58AM (#11547879)
    I started working on Cyc in 1985 and can assure you that it did _not_ start in 1994. They already had a year or two under their belt when I showed up.
  • by ZackSchil (560462) on Wednesday February 02, 2005 @03:22AM (#11548464)
    Everyone I tell about this calls me crazy but I dunno. It's a far fetched idea but it might be possible.

    Whenever people start to make an AI project, they want to start building it from from the middle. The projects have so much trouble making a stable base for themselves that they often never make anything at all. Other projects create soul-less intelligence. Complex, learning, logical machines with no purpose, direction or desire. They know nothing but what they do every day, usually process data and make new data processing rules based on that data. Sure, that's intelligence , but it's not what we're looking for.

    The human race is looking for a digital companion. A little guy in a computer that can think, feel, and reason like a person. Then we want to speed that person up to do jobs as well as a person, but faster.

    Well, that's not going to happen the way things are going now. I'd like to pose a question to the slashdot community: Do we know enough about physics on an atomic scale that we could simulate a "small room on earth" environment all the way down to an atomic level? Could we model and place in that simulated room a fertilized human egg inside what would be a functional machine to mature the egg into a fetus and release it when ready? (The machine doesn't have to follow all the simulated rules, we could just insert stuff into it using the computer). We could basically give birth to a simulated person.

    It's a crazy idea, I know, and with current technology, the simulation would be unbearably slow, but my question is: is such a thing possible? Do we understand physics on an atomic level well enough to do something like this?
    • Short answer : it's possible but would be, as you say, "unbearably slow".

      Long answer : Your question is the fundamental reason why the field of Statistical Mechanics [wikipedia.org] exists in the first place. We know the laws of physics very well at the atomic level, but all the inter-particle forces will grow exponentially. Take a picogram of water, which would encompass a sphere with 60 micron radius, of similar size to a human egg, as per your request. Such a 'small' quantity of water will contain about 100 billi

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