New research looks at how language is used to convey information in context, something which is, according to its abstract “one of the most astonishing features of human language”. Apparently there have been “many” theories providing “informal accounts of communicative inference” but few have succeeded in making “precise, quantitative predictions about pragmatic reasoning”.
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TechRepublic have published an interview with Hugh Loebner, originator of the Loebner Prize competition, in which he discusses the prize and the future of thinking machines.
A new episode of the Math/Maths Podcast has been released.
A conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. This week Samuel and Peter spoke about: Samuel’s ridiculous bus trip; Computer programmes with IQ 150; IBM’s Watson and data analytics; Extracting Dynamical Equations from Experimental Data is NP-Hard; OPERA faster-than-light neutrinos experiment UPDATE 23 February 2012; ‘Invisibility’ cloak could protect buildings from earthquakes; How Bots Seized Control of Carlos Bueno’s Pricing Strategy; Calculus: The Musical!; Who says ‘maths curriculum failing to meet the needs of the 21st century’?; Turing Stamp; & more, and Peter spoke to some of the team behind Maths in the City on the occasion of their inaugural London walking tour. Oh, and Samuel forgot to mention Science Sparring Society’s second fight, but the link is in the show notes anyway.
Get this episode: Math/Maths 87: Faulty Cables, Ridiculous Buses & Intergalactic Steroids
Watson is the computer that famously won the US game show Jeopardy last year, part of a traditional of IBM ‘grand challenges’ that includes the computer Deep Blue which in 1997 won a chess match against world champion Garry Kasparov. At the time it was reported that IBM intended Watson to be applicable in business cases where large quantities of data need sorting, for example in healthcare.
Now, in an article titled “IBM’s Watson is changing careers”, Fortune reports Watson “will soon be available as a commercialized analytics tool for data-heavy industries like healthcare, telecom and financial services”, with insurance company WellPoint acting as a pilot tester. With Watson as a cloud service, the article suggests some example applications:
A financial services firm could use it to sift through news reports and market research to find likely acquisition targets. Or a healthcare company could utilize Watson to process medical articles, prior cases and even a patient’s own medical history and identify the most likely diagnosis and best course of treatment.
Fortune acknowledges that data analytics is nothing new, but describes Watson as like “Siri… on intergalactic steroids”.
IBM has further plans for making Watson available on smartphones and tablets, and for translation to other languages “including Japanese and French”. The article also mentions competitors to IBM such as Oracle and SAP are also investing in analytics.
Source: IBM’s Watson is changing careers.
A computer programme has been developed which researchers believe can score “at least 150″ on an IQ test. According to British Mensa, which describes itself as “the High IQ Society”, there are many standard IQ tests in use around the world but “on most intelligence tests, average IQ score is 100″. The Mensa websites lists the scores required to join Mensa on different tests:
- Cattell III B – 148
- Culture Fair – 132
- Ravens Advanced Matrices – 135
- Ravens Standard Matrices – 131
- Wechsler Scales – 132
The result is interesting because IQ tests are based on spotting patterns that computers are often not able to spot.
IQ tests are based on two types of problems: progressive matrices, which test the ability to see patterns in pictures, and number sequences, which test the ability to see patterns in numbers. The most common math computer programmes score below 100 on IQ tests with number sequences.
The number sequence tests in question are only partly mathematical, with elements of psychology as well. One of the researchers, Claes Strannegård, said:
1, 2, …, what comes next? Most people would say 3, but it could also be a repeating sequence like 1, 2, 1 or a doubling sequence like 1, 2, 4. Neither of these alternatives is more mathematically correct than the others. What it comes down to is that most people have learned the 1-2-3 pattern.
Strannegård said of applications of the research:
Our programmes are beating the conventional math programmes because we are combining mathematics and psychology. Our method can potentially be used to identify patterns in any data with a psychological component, such as financial data. But it is not as good at finding patterns in more science-type data, such as weather data, since then the human psyche is not involved.
Carlos Bueno writes about a book “Computer Game Bot Turing Test”. This, he says, is:
one of over 100,000 “books” “written” by a Markov chain running over random Wikipedia articles, bundled up and sold online for a ridiculous price. The publisher, Betascript, is notorious for this kind of thing.
He writes that the pricing bots on Amazon Marketplace have got hold of this book and are “fight epic price wars” over it.
So with “Turing Test” we have a delightful futuristic absurdity: a computer program, pretending to be human, hawking a book about computers pretending to be human, while other computer programs pretend to have used copies of it. A book that was never actually written, much less printed and read.
He then talks about his own book (Lauren Ipsum; a children’s story about computer science) and how he saw pricing bots fighting over this. The book is print-on-demand, so a bot claiming to have a used copy could simply buy a new copy and resell it for a profit. Then the bots started to undercut the retail price! Finally, the Amazon pricing bot put his book on sale at 28% discount (and Amazon swallows the difference).
My reaction to this algorithmic whipsawing has settled down to a kind of helpless bemusement… After all, I no longer have a choice. The price is now determined by the complex interaction of several independent computer programs, most of which don’t actually have a copy to sell.
Read the whole story: How Bots Seized Control of My Pricing Strategy.