Thursday, April 20, 2006

"We've Got to Think About the Game"

I said I'd go into more detail about each of the activities in the Cyc Foundation's Cyclify initiative. The purpose that cuts across all activities is to grow the Cyc Knowledge Base. Initially, the focus is on what we call breadth or coverage. We want everything one could think of to have a concept term or a way of forming one from functional terms. A concept term is something like #$CreditCard. A term built functionally is something like (#$BorderBetweenFn #$France #$Germany). The '#$' is something used internally by Cyc to distinguish Cyc terms from other kinds of symbols. If you're not doing programming, you don't have to use it. But sometimes it helps as a way of knowing that you're talking about #$France the Cyc term as opposed to "France" the string or France the country.

Anyway, we want to fill up Cyc with concepts and with useful facts about the concepts. As a result of the way development proceeded with fits and starts based on where funding was coming from, the coverage in Cyc is very broad but spotty. There may be terms for #$Parsley, #$Sage and #$Rosemary, but #$Thyme might be missing. (Sounds like a song.) As for facts, Cyc may know that yelling is louder than talking, but not know that talking is typically louder than whispering.

The games will be one way of helping to fill in the content. The first game presents the player with statements for which she must choose True, False or Skip. Since many of the questions are common sense things that we all know, challenge is introduced in the form of time pressure. The first game will also have other question types; for example, one type allows the player to choose several answers.

The game is fed by statements that you might call prospective facts. There are several ways to come up with these. One is to have Cyc use natural language generation to create partial search strings -- "The adult elephant can weigh as much as *" -- and parse what you get back. Another is to use abduction -- find things that might possibly be true and propose that they are true. The statements that feed the game are in what we call "the pipeline".

There are issues in creating the pipeline. We want to create useful prospective facts; and we also want to be able to categorize them, so that you as a player won't keep getting shown statements that you know nothing about. That's a challenge we need to address presently.

I'll continue with more about the game next time.

P.S. Bonus points for whoever can tell what musical the title of this post came from.


At 1:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a big limitation is the interface. Humans are the result of fantastic interfaces.

Too often we look at the result of a great interface and assume the result itself is what built the result.

The human brain is nifty, but how nifty is the brain without eyes, ears, tongue, nose, etc?

In this sense, cyc and other efforts may be great code but they're limited by their interface(s).

A human doesn't need to do any of the heavy lifting. The chemical reactions and electrical conversions happen below the interface.

That isn't how the creators of programs think. They get caught up in the reactions and conversions and as a result only people who can create an interface are useful.

Imagine a world where only people who could translate chemical reactions and electrical impulses were useful.

Cyc and other efforts will only take root once the interface requires no special knowledge of programming languages.

The interface, once built, will result in something akin to a human brain in its complexity. But it will have been the handiwork of the interface(s).

A simple converter interface can build very complex things.

And just like in a field of dreams, "If you build it they will come."

-Lord Volton

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that conversational robots could be very useful way running the game. I believe we should be talking on MSN...this gateway opens up millions of game players...with NO download footprint...Please add me to your chat system:

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:14 AM, Anonymous GrassrootsNinja said...

Damn Yankees, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. I was actually looking for that song when I came across your blog. Sorry, I know nothing of Cyc.


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