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One of the world's most advanced computers is only as smart as a four-year-old

The machine scored highly in vocabulary but lacks even the basic commonsense of a young child.

Image: Child at computer via Shutterstock

ONE OF THE best artificial intelligence systems in the world was put to the test this week to see just how smart it really is.

An IQ test, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) show that it’s about as clever as the average 4-year-old.

The team put ConceptNet 4 – as he’s known to his friends – through the verbal portions of the Weschsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Test, a standard IQ tests for young children.

While the test found that the computer has the average IQ of a small child, its scores were very uneven across different portions of the test.

“If a child had scores that varied this much, it might be a symptom that something was wrong,” said Robert Sloan, professor and head of computer science at UIC, and lead author on the study.

Sloan said that the computer did well on a test of vocabulary and on a test of its ability to recognise similarities.

“But ConceptNet 4 did dramatically worse than average on comprehension – the ‘why’ questions,” he said.

One of the hardest problems in building an artificial intelligence, Sloan said, is creating a computer program that can make sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts – the dictionary definition of commonsense.

Commonsense has eluded AI engineers because it requires both a large collection of facts and what Sloan calls implicit facts – things so obvious that we don’t know we know them. A computer may know the temperature at which water freezes, but we know that ice is cold, for example.

“All of us know a huge number of things,” said Sloan. “As babies, we crawled around and yanked on things and learned that things fall. We yanked on other things and learned that dogs and cats don’t appreciate having their tails pulled.”

Sloan said we’re still very far from programs with commonsense but that he hoped this research will help focus on the “hard spots” in artificial intelligence research.

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