A new breathrough in web searching has been announced by Stephen Wolfram: Wolfram|Alpha is Coming!
In the article, Wolfram describes the breakthrough as “…vastly smarter than (and different from) Google. Google simply retrieves documents based on keyword searches. Google doesn’t understand the question or the answer, and doesn’t compute answers based on models of various fields of human knowledge.”
We’ve talked about artificial intelligence in this blog before, and how the ideas in Wolfram’s NKS (A New Kind of Science) lend themselves uniquely to its potential development. I think we’re beginning to see being taken, through the Wolfram|Alpha project, the first few baby steps towards a rigorous form of human-thought-oriented computer intelligence.
What is Wolfram|Alpha? It’s a huge store of knowledge that can be interacted with. That can be interacted with, is the operable (new) notion. In Wolfram’s words:
Let’s say we succeed in creating a system that knows a lot, and can figure a lot out. How can we interact with it?
The way humans normally communicate is through natural language. And when one’s dealing with the whole spectrum of knowledge, I think that’s the only realistic option for communicating with computers too.
Of course, getting computers to deal with natural language has turned out to be incredibly difficult. And for example we’re still very far away from having computers systematically understand large volumes of natural language text on the web.
But if one’s already made knowledge computable, one doesn’t need to do that kind of natural language understanding.
All one needs to be able to do is to take questions people ask in natural language, and represent them in a precise form that fits into the computations one can do.
Look for it to go live here on May 5, 2009.
Being that the article quoted from above came out March 5, quite a weekend buzz has been generated. Here are some links to articles which discuss Wolfram’s announcement:
Life Under the Big Top: Plethora of Pinatas
reflections.concept-delivery.com: Wolfram|Alpha Goes Viral