Artificial intelligence on the horizon?

A unique collaboration between researchers from the fields of computer science and philosophy may be taking us one step closer to the notion of artificial intelligence.

Most people are now proficient at using search engines like Google. However, those search engines still only provide internet users with raw information which users must then read and interpret.

Professor Ian Witten and Dr Cathy Legg from Waikato University want to change that. They have received significant support from the Marsden Fund to design and implement an ambitious new model of automated knowledge discovery.

Dr Legg said the research aims to develop ontologies in computer-searchable form by mining online sources such as Wikipedia. Human experts have traditionally constructed ontologies; a process which is both time-consuming and expensive.

'Rather than merely gathering facts in a pile, our process will model the thinking of human scientists who put forward hypotheses and test them before accepting them as fact,' Dr Legg says.

'It will allow us to extend the reach of searches across the web so that more knowledge can be integrated. It will make searches far more useful and will provide a much greater degree of quality control. In essence, we are trying to build the world’s first self-correcting knowledge base.'

The researchers are being assisted by Dr Sam Sarjant who worked with Dr Legg on a project which originally focused on integrating knowledge from Wikipedia and Cyc, a long-running hand-coded ontology project.

"That was a 10-week summer project. Support from the Marsden Fund means we are now able to massively expand the scope of our work and hopefully create a platform that can be very widely used."

Supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund.