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Millions of Dollars and 30 Years Later, A.I. Still Has Lacks Crucial Common Sense



(p. B6) SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft's co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday [February 28, 2018] that he was pumping an additional $125 million into his nonprofit computer research lab for an ambitious new effort to teach machines "common sense."


. . .


"To make real progress in A.I., we have to overcome the big challenges in the area of common sense," said Mr. Allen, who founded the software giant Microsoft in the 1970s with Bill Gates.


. . .


In the mid-1980s, Doug Lenat, a former Stanford University professor, with backing from the government and several of the country's largest tech companies, started a project called Cyc. He and his team of researchers worked to codify all the simple truths that we learn as children, from "you can't be in two places at the same time" to "when drinking from a cup, hold the open end up."

Thirty years later, Mr. Lenat and his team are still at work on this "common sense engine" -- with no end in sight.

Mr. Allen helped fund Cyc, and he believes it is time to take a fresh approach, he said, because modern technologies make it easier to build this kind of system.

Mr. Lenat welcomed the new project. But he also warned of challenges: Cyc has burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, running into countless problems that were not evident when the project began. He called them "buzz saws."



For the full story, see:

CADE METZ, "A.I.'s Greatest Challenge: Digitizing Common Sense." The New York Times (Thursday, March 1, 2018): B6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date Feb. 28, 2018, and has the title "Paul Allen Wants to Teach Machines Common Sense.")






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