It may be one of the more obscure “news” events of the year, I found a reference to this “news” event in a blog post by my friend, Louis Kessler, up in Canada. The post the piqued my interest was entitled, “Chess and Artificial Intelligence: The Future Changed Today.” This post talks about the Alphabet (Google) owned company, DeepMind.
You can get the details and watch the videos on Louis’s blog post. If you have any appreciation at all for the advancements in technology, you will realize that this particular development is probably the most important change in our collective future to come along for quite a while. To understand the perspective here you need to focus on these paragraphs from Lewis’s blog post:
Long, long ago, when I was a student at the University of Manitoba, I had a hobby I had dabbled in: programming a computer to play chess. I had reached a point where my program, Brute Force, was then one of the best in the world. I went to Seattle, Washington in 1977 for the 8th North American Computer Chess Championship, and followed that up in 1978 in Washington, D.C. for the 9th NACCC. (If you’re interested, see my writeup on my chess program, Brute Force).
The program was called Brute Force because I concentrated on doing the minimum possible to evaluate positions, and simply let the program iterate as many moves as possible to determine the best move. I had the full use of the University of Manitoba’s IBM 370/168 mainframe, which likely was as powerful then as your smartphone is today. Smartphones today can play better chess than the big computers did back then in the Computer Chess Championships of the ‘70s.
Here is a description of the DeepMind company from their website:
DeepMind was founded in London in 2010 and back by some of the most successful technology entrepreneurs in the world. Having been acquired by Google in 2014, we are now part of the Alphabet group. We continue to be based in our hometown of London, with additional research centres in Edmonton and Montreal, Canada, and a DeepMind Applied team in Mountain View, California.
As usual, I must ask the question how does this affect genealogy? I can think of a number of areas, to begin with. For example the following:
- Handwriting recognition
- Intelligent indexing
- Document recognition and cataloging
- Correction of existing family tree entries i.e. standardization
- Increasingly accurate record hints
- Increasingly accurate duplicate record resolutions
From my own standpoint, the main area of the I would be concerned with the voice recognition software. As I have written recently, the current domination of the commercial market for individual voice recognition software is dominated by one company. The current product referred to as “Dragon” from Nuance.com is based on research done by IBM. Unfortunately, because of the lack of competition, the products have been upgraded slowly and still contain numerous bugs. The biggest problem with all of the voice recognition software over the years has been its inability to improve performance by learning from its mistakes. The programs require individualized human intervention in order to learn new terms. User corrections to the text are not incorporated into the program. In the case of Dragon, new words must be individually entered. With the new developments in artificial intelligence outlined by Lewis’s blog, someone or some company may be able to create a voice recognition program that actually works.