Doug Lenat: “Creativity vs. Common Sense”

February 15, 2006 | USC ICT

Speaker: Doug Lenat
Host: Lori Weiss

The pursuit of Artificial Intelligence—from robotics to natural language processing to automated learning—has been held back by the “brittleness bottleneck” caused by the need for common sense. This is no less true for the more specialized pursuit of getting software to be creative, indeed that is exactly what led me from AM (the automated discovery program I wrote in 1976) to Cyc (the common sense knowledge base and reasoner we’ve been building since 1984.) Along the way, we’ve had to revise our preconceptions and theories, to expand our representation language and arsenal of inference methods, to find approximate yet adequate engineering solutions to problems that philosphers have grappled with for millenia such as substances vs. individual objects, time, space, causality, belief, social interactions, dealing with contradictions and context, and so on. This talk will cover my 30-year journey to get computers to be creative, and get specific about how ICT might harness and leverage our current ResearchCyc technology. This includes obvious connections, such as with Gordon and Hobbs’ work, and more subtle possible synergies with story direction and retrieval, training, producing appropriate explanations, and in general leading to less “brittle” virtual humans.

Bio:Dr. Douglas Lenat is the President and CEO of Cycorp. Since 1984, he and his team have been constructing, experimenting with, and applying a broad real world knowledge base and reasoning engine, collectively “Cyc”. For ten years he did this as the Principal Scientist of the MCC research consortium (the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation), and since 1994 as CEO of Cycorp. He holds BAs in
Mathematics and Physics and an MS in Applied Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania. His 1976 Stanford PhD thesis, AM, was a demonstration that certain kinds of creative discoveries in mathematics could be produced by a computer program (a theorem proposer, rather than a theorem prover). That work earned him the bi-annual IJCAI Computers and Thought Award in 1977. Dr. Lenat was a professor of computer science at Carnegie-Mellon University and at Stanford University. He is one of the founders of AAAI (the American Association for Artificial Intelligence), and a Fellow of AAAI. He has authored hundreds of journal articles (e.g., a four-article series in AI.J. over several years on The Nature of Heuristics I-IV), book chapters (e.g., in Machine Learning and Hal’s Legacy) and books (including Knowledge Based Systems in Artificial Intelligence and Building Large Knowledge Based Systems). In 1980 he co-founded Teknowledge, Inc. His interest and experience in national security has led him to regularly consult for several U.S. agencies and the White House. He is the only person to have served on the technical advisory boards of both Microsoft and Apple.