In September, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) unveiled a computer program c called Aristo that could correctly answer more than 90 percent of the questions on an eighth-grade science test. Passing a middle-school exam might sound mundane, but it’s complicated for computers. Aristo found its answers from among billions of documents using natural language processing (NLP), a branch of computer science and artificial intelligence that enables computers to extract meaning from unstructured text. Though we’re still a long way from machines that can understand and speak human language, NLP has become pivotal in many applications that we use every day, including digital assistants, web search, email, and machine translation. Words Are Hard Replicating the language-processing capabilities of the human mind is a historic pain point for artificial intelligence. Imagine an AI agent that must respond to weather-condition queries; it has to understand all the different ways someone can ask about the weather: How is the weather today? Will it rain tomorrow? When will it stop raining? Is it sunny in Chicago? Will it be warmer tomorrow? Which days are sunny next week? And in many cases, language carries hidden meanings that imply general knowledge about the world and… Read full this story
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