Thursday, April 30, 2009

Surge in AI stories makes me think its arrival may be sooner than expected.

IBM has announced Watson will begin sparring humans this year leading up to a final contest sometime in 2010. Steve Wolfram has announced Wolfram Alpha will launch in May. The good folks over at Caltech have 'trained' a computer to analyze the behavior of fruit flies... in real time, something it takes a human close to 100 hours to do. A Program, dubbed Adam, has also been developed capable of making, and testing, a hypothesis has produced modest, though publishable results. A group at Cornell has created an AI that can derive the laws of physics from data of the natural world, with some refinement, it should be able to extract tons of information from the massive amounts of data we already have. The University of Southerland, meanwhile, is working on CASSANDRA, a program to monitor stock markets and guard against insider trading and spin.

When we look at these news stories we see a trend emerging, programs able to understand natural human language, recognize patterns, make inferences... what happens when we have computers as powerful as bluegene available for tens of thousands of dollars (rather than hundreds of millions), a program like Watson, which can read texts and 'understand' them, *and,* unlike Watson, you hook it up to a search engine like Wolfram Alpha? Oh, yeah, and I almost forgot, HAL really can read lips...

This brings me back to the point I keep trying to hammer home, it doesn't take true sentience for a program to displace a person from a job. If your job is monotonous, highly technical, or requires you to have command over vast amounts of information, your job will be among the first to go. Doubly so if it's also high paying.

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