Magazine article Science News

Old Problems for Testing a New Math

Magazine article Science News

Old Problems for Testing a New Math

Article excerpt

Old problems for testing a new math

Computers are very good at figuring out the solution to a physics problem, but the heart of intelligence lies in what physicists themselves do: look at a situation and decide what the problem is. This requires the kind of qualitative reasoning--the commonsense physics -- that is so important in artificial intelligence (AI) research. The "qualitative physics" that lets us evaluate whether a bathtub with a leaky plug and the water pouring in from a spout will eventually overflow is something we learn intuitively as children, but it is hard to program into a computer.

What AI specialists need to create programs that design their own problems to solve is a new form of math -- one less exact than the simple math we learn in school but not so general that all the predictive value of the equations is lost, says Brian Williams of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. …

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