Reading as Construction in Humans and Machines

Bill DeSmedt has an interesting article up at HufffPo on artificial intelligence and story construction.

Bill is the author of Singularity and Dualism, both worth a read.

Do stories exist only in our heads?

Put the question another way: Is it possible that the “overt story” — the surface text physically presented to us, whether on parchment or computer screen — is really only a string of cues intended to guide the reader in reconstructing the full narrative? The answer will have implications for the likelihood of success in such perennial artificial intelligence pursuits as the automated acquisition of knowledge from textual corpora.

In these days of fear and trembling over the imminence of AI apocalypse on the one hand, and rapturous anticipation of a technological singularity on the other, it perhaps behooves us to ask whether current efforts in the knowledge acquisition field are marching inexorably toward some sort of CYClopean culmination, or simply tracing a more circuitous route down into the abyss of yet another “AI-winter” debacle.

The underlying issue here seems to me to be: whether, and to what degree, reading and understanding can be seen as processes of active construction — of filling in the blanks, so to speak — as opposed to mere passive assimilation. And, to the extent that they are, what can be done to automate them?

First things first, though. We need to begin by looking at —

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