With artificial intelligence, common sense is uncommon

Published: December 16, 2021
Category: News
Illustration: commonsense AI

Common sense isn’t common, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. Computers struggle to make fine distinctions that people take for granted. This is why websites require you authenticate your humanity before logging in or making a purchase: Most bots can’t tell the difference between a crosswalk and a zebra.

At the USC AI Futures Symposium on AI with Common Sense earlier this month, more than 20 USC researchers reported on the technical reasons why that’s the case, and different avenues of research to address this. Advances in common sense AI will improve human-facing services, from enhanced social services to better serve society to personal assistants that better predict our context and needs.

“AI systems today can converse with us to order a book, find a song, or vacuum our floors,” said Yannis Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “But they do not have the common sense to know that we read books for learning and for pleasure, that music relaxes us, and that tidy homes are more enjoyable. Mindsets taking into account human interaction must be applied in tackling the commonsense challenge for AI as we are laying the foundations for AI to be responsible and ethical, and to impact society in meaningful ways.”

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