the ghost in the machine


ONE OF THE great broken promises of the 20th-century view of the future, right up there with personal jet-packs, was the promise of artificial intelligence. AI was supposed to lead to computers that wouldn’t just calculate and organize, but reason and analyze; computers that could really think, like HAL in “2001” or KITT on the 1980s TV show “Knight Rider.” (Of course, HAL turned out to be a homicidal psychopath and KITT was a smug know-it-all, but still, it seemed like a good idea.)

Recent efforts to realize the promise of AI have centered on teaching computers to better deduce meaning from the vast content of the Web, but there’s still a long way to go. In the meantime, however, there’s an alternative type of computerized system that is actually making big strides toward getting computers to think like humans. Publisher Tim O’Reilly calls it intelligence augmentation (IA for short), and it uses a very clever technique. It cheats.

more from Boston Globe Ideas here.