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If Computers Are So Smart, How Come They Can’t Read?

Wired – Deep learning excels at learning statistical correlations, but lacks robust ways of understanding how the meanings of sentences relate to their parts. “…drill down into tools like Google Talk to Books (GTB) and you quickly realize we are nowhere near genuine machine reading yet. When we asked GTB, “Where did Harry Potter meet Hermione Granger?” only six of the 20 answers were even about Harry Potter; most of the rest were about other people named Harry or on completely unrelated topics. Only one mentioned Hermione, and none answered the question. When we asked GTB, “Who was the oldest Supreme Court justice in 1980?” we got another fail. Any reasonably bright human could go to Wikipedia’s list of Supreme Court justices and figure out that it was William Brennan. Google Talk to Books couldn’t; no sentence in any book that it had digested spelled out the answer in full, and it had no way to make inferences beyond what was directly spelled out.

The most telling problem, though, was that we got totally different answers depending on how we asked the question. When we asked GTB, “Who betrayed his teacher for 30 pieces of silver?” a famous incident in a famous story, only three out of the 20 correctly identified Judas. Things got even worse as we strayed from the exact wording of “pieces of silver.” When we asked a slightly less specific questions, “Who betrayed his teacher for 30 coins?” Judas only turned up in one of the top 20 answers; and when we asked “Who sold out his teacher for 30 coins?” Judas disappeared from the top 20 results altogether…”

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