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AI China Technology

The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers 162

Taco Cowboy writes The subway system in Hong Kong has one of the best uptimes: 99.9%, which beats London's tube or NYC's sub hands down. In an average week as many as 10,000 people would be carrying out 2,600 engineering works across the system — from grinding down rough rails to replacing tracks to checking for damages. While human workers might be the ones carrying out the work, the one deciding which task is to be worked on, however, isn't a human being at all. Each and every engineering task to be worked on and the scheduling of all those tasks is being handled by an algorithm. Andy Chun of Hong Kong's City University, who designed the AI system, says, "Before AI, they would have a planning session with experts from five or six different areas. It was pretty chaotic. Now they just reveal the plan on a huge screen." Chun's AI program works with a simulated model of the entire system to find the best schedule for necessary engineering works. From its omniscient view it can see chances to combine work and share resources that no human could. However, in order to provide an added layer of security, the schedule generated by the AI is still subject to human approval — Urgent, unexpected repairs can be added manually, and the system would reschedule less important tasks. It also checks the maintenance it plans for compliance with local regulations. Chun's team encoded into machine readable language 200 rules that the engineers must follow when working at night, such as keeping noise below a certain level in residential areas. The main difference between normal software and Hong Kong's AI is that it contains human knowledge that takes years to acquire through experience, says Chun. "We asked the experts what they consider when making a decision, then formulated that into rules – we basically extracted expertise from different areas about engineering works," he says.
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The AI Boss That Deploys Hong Kong's Subway Engineers

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  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:45AM (#47399051)

    In other words, this is basically Drools, plus a ton of billable consulting hours?

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kruach aum ( 1934852 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:45AM (#47399053)

    Everything currently run by committee should ideally be run by an AI with limited human oversight in the future. Groups of humans suck at the two things AIs are great at: remembering things and making decisions.

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:46AM (#47399057)

    Laws, paperwork, unions, paperwork, regulations and paperwork wouldn't allow this to happen.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:49AM (#47399083)
    I dunno. If a corporation smells a profit in it, then I think they'll find a way.
  • Expert System (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DontBlameCanada ( 1325547 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @09:49AM (#47399089)
    This is a perfect example of an Expert System [].

    Expert Systems have been one of the most successful and longest used AI models in industry. FPGA routing and layout programs have relied on this form of AI since the early/mid 90's.
  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:07AM (#47399225) Homepage Journal

    Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. It's those unions. Those ones whose membership has been steadily and measurably been decreasing for 30 years(almost exactly at the same rate as wage stagnation occurs, as a complete coincidence).

    How small does Snowball's organization have to get before you stop believing he's behind everything?

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:08AM (#47399243)

    In other words, this is basically Drools, plus a ton of billable consulting hours?

    Actually, it's probably something more like TIBCO BusinessEvents with an orchestration engine added. But what's really cool is that they did the hard part: codifying the actual rules under which the overall system operates. That's where these kinds of systems either fly or fall. There are tons of rules that organizations use to make decisions, but a lot of those rules are quite informal and don't operate at a central point of authority. It takes a lot of digging to find them all, so that the undocumented process (for example) used by the foreman of the team that does rail maintenance to manage overtime among his crew gets incorporated into the overall chaining logic. Otherwise, the new system will either fail to reflect reality as teams rearrange their own schedules out of sync with their directives, or will wreak havoc among the employees.

  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:13AM (#47399287)

    Actually, it's probably something more like TIBCO BusinessEvents with an orchestration engine added

    Back in my time, we called what they have done now "an expert system". I fail to see why that designation should be suddenly inadequate.

  • It's here already? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ken_g6 ( 775014 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:14AM (#47399299) Homepage

    Is it called Manna? []

  • Re:Expert System (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:25AM (#47399399) Homepage
    I don't even know if I'd classify something like this as "AI". It's just running an algorithm using lots of information and doing complex calculations. Way more complex than any person could do, but they are not the kind of actions I would generally consider "intelligent". Efficient allocation of resources works great for computers, because they aren't biased. They don't give their friends extra shifts or wait until later to call in a repair crew because the didn't like the attitude of the person who reported the problem.
  • Manna (Score:2, Insightful)

    by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <> on Monday July 07, 2014 @10:43AM (#47399523) Homepage

    Relevant. Must-read short story if you haven't. []

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @11:27AM (#47399899) Journal
    We have talked to the experts. Extracted their wisdom. Encoded it into machine readable rules. Proved that all the expertise has been extracted by the 99.9% up time.

    So, naturally, the next step is to fire all those people who would no longer have something to contribute. As a purely added bonus all these people fresh out of things to contribute happen to be with years and years of experience, which means seniority and high pay.

    The mid level bean counter would think, "well, I should be able to fire at least 20 of them. Savings of 2 million on pay, another million in benefits, almost 10 mill over three years. Even if I have to let the SOBs CEO and CFO grab a mill each, I should be able to get at least 250 K for myself. Time to fire up power point, 'Work Force Optimization due to the increased Efficiency achieved by the AI system. By Gottah Avemyb Onus, Sr Vice President, Hatchet Division'"

  • Re:Expert System (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackiner ( 2787381 ) on Monday July 07, 2014 @12:06PM (#47400219)
    Reminds me of how my AI professor described AI. You have two types of AI, strong and weak, strong being something akin to a conscious thinking mind (and not even guaranteed to be possible at the moment), and weak being stuff like data mining, translation, speech-to-text, puzzle solvers, etc. She also let us know that things are only considered AI until they are solved, then they are just 'algorithms', which I think mirrors people's perceptions of AI quite nicely.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"