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GCN : August 2014
OVER THE LAST YEAR, several developments on the artificial intelligence (AI) front have occurred that reflect our wildest fanta- sies and worst fears for this technology. Here are a few examples: A battle continues to rage between MIT linguist Noam Chomsky and Google Direc- tor of Research Peter Norvig over the increased use of statistics and probability in AI. Chomsky argued that the "new AI" is merely mimicking behavior instead of unravel- ing the rules and processes of cognition. On the other hand, Norvig takes a more practical, proba- bilistic approach, believing in AI s suitability for natural language processing, for instance. Speaking of natural lan- guage recognition, the recent movie, "Her," does a good job demonstrating the future of natural language interfaces by expressing a fantasy of AI companions so compelling that people form emotional ties to them. Think of strong natural language recognition as the gateway to AI. Recently, CNBC reported that Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, said he had concerns about the future of AI, suggesting that there are dangers in the fledging AI market. "I think there s things that are potentially danger- ous out there," he said in an interview with the network. "There s been movies about this, like Terminator ... There s some scary outcomes and we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad." They made it easy to sur- mise they fear a Robopoca- lypse caused by AI run amok! Elsewhere, a Russian chatbot successfully passed the Turing test, an intel- ligence test devised by the British mathematician Alan Turing, in which a machine is deemed "intelligent" when it is indistinguishable from a human when in natural language conversation with a human judge. The chatbot convinced 33 percent of the judges that it was a 13-year old boy from Ukraine. Of course these events portend neither apocalypse nor nirvana. Instead, they are a solid demonstration of the continued evolution of AI. NICHE AI APPS Recently, a newscientist.com article described the success of "niche AI" applications like the one that schedules the massive Hong Kong subway system and another that sorts passport applications. The subway system s AI program is based on a simulated model of the entire system. "From its omniscient view it can see chances to combine work and share resources that no human could," according to the article. I believe modern ap- proaches to AI will be like these niche apps. In other words, we will use probabil- ity to match a formal model to a current problem so we can execute rules or other cognitive processes. Applying AI techniques to enterprise applications is also becoming more com- monplace with business rule management systems via tools like JBOSS BRMS, ontology development via tools like prot g and other semantic Web platforms. If you are interested in experimenting with these concepts on a small scale, I recently released a free Knowledge Base editor called EZKB (for Easy Knowledge Base) that demonstrates AI techniques in a layered, building block approach. Each tab in the application represents a level in the semantic stack: from facts to entities to relationships, to rules, to triggers, to output actions and views. The soft- ware is merely a side hobby of mine and not a polished product but it will give you a good basis to understand these techniques. You can find EZKB at www.daconta. us, and be sure to check out the video for more explana- tion and use cases. So, what does the evolu- tion of AI mean for govern- ment IT managers? It means that basic AI techniques are within the reach of every application developer and can be deployed to improve almost every new IT system under development. These technologies are no longer "exotic rarities" that only ex- ist in research labs and ivory towers; instead, they are now moving to mainstream ap- plications that can scan data, identify patterns, execute rules and take automated or semi-automated action. • --- Michael C. Daconta is vice president of advanced tech- nology at InCadence Strategic Solutions and the former metadata program manager for the Homeland Security Department. Artificial intelligence: Fears and fantasies REALITY CHECK BY MICHAEL DACONTA Basic AI techniques are within the reach of every application developer and can be deployed to improve almost every new IT system in the government space. 18 GCN AUGUST 2014 • GCN.COM