Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Craig Mundie on AI and personalization

Microsoft Chief Research Officer Craig Mundie offered a few tidbits on artificial intelligence and personalization in the recent Microsoft Analyst Meeting.

Some excerpts:
Think if the computer was really much more personalized in terms of what it did for you.

It will become more humanistic - your ability to interact with the machine more the way you would interact with other people will accrue from this big increase in power.

It ... [will] adapt more to the environment and your needs and the things that are going on around you ... The way in which you will be able to interact with it will be significantly changed.

A computer and its software can move today from a tool to ... a great assistant.

[Assistants] think. They learn about you. They understand what you value. They understand what's important. They make decisions ... They speculate about what might be interesting.

One of the things I dream about personally is being able to move to where the computer is also able to speculate, to do things on the anticipation that it might turn out to be useful for you.

We've done this at the level of speculative execution ... but only for the purposes of trying to make the machine go faster ... Can ... software that is wildly more complex and sophisticated ... but well suited to this class of machine that will emerge in the next 5 to 10 years ... make [machines] qualitatively different and better ... [and] make the machine something that really borders on being your [assistant]?

If the machine actually moves to ... anticipate things and to attempt things on your behalf, then, they would be qualitatively different and more valuable, and I think we will see the [computing] revolution begin again.
An ambitious goal, to be sure, and one that may be well more than 5-10 years out. As I said earlier, this vision requires not only understanding intent and being able to reason about complicated plans, but also having a rich understanding of information acquired and dealing with uncertainty in information, actions, and goals.

While it is a problem we are a long way from solving, that only makes it that much more interesting to try. It certainly is true that even baby steps toward this goal could improve our ability to access and process information, drive increases in productivity, and spark a new computing revolution.

On how close Microsoft Research is to this goal, you might be interested in an April 2006 post where I talk about several Microsoft Research projects and then say that, if those projects can be combined and refined:
Microsoft may be able to build a task-focused, advanced user interface that organizes your information, pays attention to what you are doing to help you find what you need, and surfaces additional information and alerts only when it is important and relevant.
Nevertheless, that kind of assistant is only a first step toward the near AI-Complete vision Craig is describing. Yet, ambitious as it is, Larry Page said something similar a few months back, describing being able to answer any question about anything as the long-term goal for search.

On Craig's words about speculative execution, if you want a trip off into la-la land, you might be interested in my ramblings on what a future with massively multi-core CPUs on our desktop might look like in my past post, "The rise of wildly speculative execution".

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