by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 9th 2009 3:57am
For years and years and years, we've been hearing about hugely ambitious projects to try to create "thinking" machines that can absorb a ton of information and spit out facts. Yet, every time, when the true tests begin, the project never gets very far, for a variety of reasons. First, the technology usually isn't that good. Having a computer decide what is "truthful" isn't exactly an easy problem -- especially when plenty of humans can't even agree on what is, and what is not, truthful. Second, these companies have failed to come up with a reason why anyone would really want/need to use such a thing. After all, how useful is a "truth" machine compared to a simple search engine? These projects come and go, and there's always someone insisting that the holy grail is on its way. The latest is Stephen Wolfram, something of a high tech oddity. He built a tremendous success with Mathematica and clearly is a sort of techie's techie. That's why it's not as easy to simply dismiss his claims to have created just such a knowledge system. That said, I'm still not convinced there's a particularly good use case for the product -- and, even if it's much better than what's come before, chances are it still has an incredibly long way to go. Wolfram is a super smart guy -- and I do hope he's figured out how to really create such a thing, but given how many similar claims we've seen in the past, it seems only wise to express some significant skepticism.
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