Computer Systems Laboratory Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, June 04, 2003
NEC Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B03

Computers versus Common Sense
An Engineering Approach to AI

Doug Lenat
Cycorp, Inc.
About the talk:

Computers today are idiot-savants. They may manage bits flawlessly and furiously, but they have no understanding of what those bits signify. And they have poor models of themselves and of the human beings they serve and represent. To break that "brittleness bottleneck," we need a new software layer that contains the millions of things the average person knows about the world. Some of this is factual, such as how often a U.S. Presidential election is held, or even ephemeral, such as the name of the current President; but most of the needed content is more like rules of thumb, such as why one should carry a glass of water open-end up. In terms of a newspaper or book, we are talking about codifying the white space - the things the authors don't need to bother saying (e.g., the White House is in Washington, D.C.; tables have flat horizontal tops; appliances stop working when turned off.) Since 1984, my team has spent the seven person-centuries necessary to build that artifact. In this talk, I'll describe what we did, and why, and some of the lessons we learned about representing commonsense knowledge, and doing reasoning in huge knowledge-based systems. In particular, I'll explain why we took an empirical, engineering approach to the problem, rather than a theoretical, scientific approach. I'll also discuss some current and future commercial applications of our technology (CYC).

About the speaker:

Douglas B. Lenat received hi Ph.D. in Computer Science at Stanford in 1976; his thesis was a heuristic program called AM that made hundreds of small creative discoveries in mathematics -- a theorem proposer, rather than a theorem prover -- for which he was awarded the biannual IJCAI Computers & Thought Award in 1977. Dr. Lenat was named one of the original Fellows of the AAAI (American Association for Artificial Intelligence). A prolific author, he has been a professor at CMU and Stanford, a founder of Teknowledge, and the only individual ever to serve on the technical advisory boards of both Apple and Microsoft. His interest and experience in national security has led him to regularly consult for several U.S. agencies and the White House. From 1984 through 1994, Dr. Lenat directed the Cyc common sense knowledge base and reasoning project for MCC, the USA's first high-technology research consortium. He is the President of Cycorp, the company he founded in 1994 to carry on the development and commercialization of the Cyc technology.

Contact information:

Doug Lenat
3721 Executive Center Drive
Suite 100
Austin, Texas 78731