Artificial intelligence with common sense

In the next few months, an artificial brain called Cyc will be put online for the world to interact with.

Cyc features a human trait no other AI system has managed to imitate: common sense. It should be able to recognise that in the phrase “the pen is in the box”, the pen is a small writing implement, while in the sentence “the box is in the pen”, the pen is a much larger corral.


Cyc relates each fact to others within the database. It knows for example, that in the sentence “each American has a president” there is only one president, whereas in the sentence “each American has a mother” there are many millions of mothers.

Cyc can also make deductions about things it has never learned about directly. It can tell whether two animals are related without having been programmed with the explicit relationship between each animal we know of.

When it will be released on the web, people will be able to contribute to its knowledge by submitting questions and correcting it if Cyc gets the answers wrong. Doug Lenat of Cycorp, the system’s creator, envisages Cyc eventually being connected to webcams and other sensors monitoring environments around the globe, building its knowledge of the world more or less by itself.

At first, users will get answers to their questions only some of the time because it won’t yet have the common sense to understand every question or have the knowledge to answer it. But with the critical mass looming, in three to five years users should expect to get an answer most of the time. Lenat has pledged to make access to Cyc freely available, allowing developers of other AI systems to tap into its fund of common sense to improve the performance of their own systems.

Via New Scientist.