Can Common Sense Be Built into AI?

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November 5, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: November 5 on

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is planning to release a broad agency announcement for the Machine Common Sense program, part of its $2 billion AI Next campaign.

Common sense  “has been a big problem in AI for decades,” according to Dave Gunning, a program manager within the Information Innovation Office at DARPA. “This is one of the biggest barriers between narrow AI, which is what we have plenty of today, and kind of more-general AI we’d like to have more of in the future.”

Common sense is, well, common among people. It’s always operating in the background, helping to fill in gaps in everyday conversations and experiences and helping humans relate to the world around them.

“If I ask you if an elephant fits through a doorway, you immediately say no,” Gunning told GCN. “You don’t have to calculate the size and volume of the elephant, you just know that automatically.”

Without the insights provided by common sense, an intelligent system may not understand its world, communicate clearly with people, behave reasonably in unforeseen situations or learn from new experiences, Gunning said in an agency release.

DARPA plans to research three main areas of common sense over the course of the four-year project. First, intuitive physics — the knowledge of spaces, objects and places that explains why an elephant won’t fit through a doorway. Second, intuitive psychology — a general understanding of people and their goals that explains why two people yelling at each other are probably arguing or that people walking into a restaurant are likely hungry. Finally, basic facts,  the information an average adult should know.