Do-It-Yourself AI: How Wolfram Alpha Is Bringing Artificial Intelligence to the Masses

Monday, 28 September 2015 - 3:21PM
Technology
Monday, 28 September 2015 - 3:21PM
Do-It-Yourself AI: How Wolfram Alpha Is Bringing Artificial Intelligence to the Masses
At the Maker Faire in New York City this weekend, Stephen Wolfram held a talk about his anti-Google query engine, Wolfram Alpha, and how it's bringing artificial intelligence to the masses. As simple programming languages become more accessible and more commonly taught as practical skills, Wolfram Alpha could allow for commonplaces, everyday DIY AI.

Wolfram Alpha is an "answer engine" to Google's search engine; it answers questions rather than mining the Internet for content. But unlike vintage sites like "Ask Jeeves," which was really just a search engine with a funny butler icon, Wolfram Alpha actually synthesizes answers to questions rather than searching for them. As Wolfram stated in his panel, if you ask Wolfram Alpha for the population of New York City, it will utilize both internal algorithmic work and real-world knowledge in order to compute it, rather than just searching for an accredited answer somewhere on the internet.

In this sense, many have noted that it's not really a competitor with Google, as it more closely approximates the ability to "think." While the program received mixed reviews when it first came out, it has since become more prominent, and even provides knowledge content to Siri.

And Wolfram Alpha is somewhat like Siri, in the sense that it allows you to "talk" to an artificial intelligence. Using simple programming language that is close to natural written language, you can talk directly to Wolfram Alpha and ask it questions. You can even upload an image of a complex math expression and it will convert the image into symbolic representation, perform actual math, and simplify it for you. It is also programmable onto many different devices, making it even more like a less user-friendly but more advanced Siri.

In his talk, Wolfram claimed that this is an "exciting time when we can use computation to put intelligence in everything," and that AI is becoming more readily available and accessible to the public. People are generally becoming more fluent in programming language, allowing for this type of relationship with AI to exist. But if, like me, you are not fluent in programming language, Wolfram's programming tutorials are available free online, giving everyone the opportunity to learn the language associated with Wolfram Alpha and talk to it directly.
Science
Artificial Intelligence
Technology

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