Google Looks to Program Regret and Hindsight into Computers

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It could be argued that we, as humans, learn best from our past mistakes. It could also be argued that the only way to truly live life is to sprint everywhere as fast as you can with your tie knotted around your head like it’s midnight at an open-bar wedding, yelling, “On your left! LEFT!!! I’m not even required to wear a tie for work!” at everyone you run past on the street.

Google’s apparently betting on a non-tie, non-sprinting, learn-from-our-mistakes future with a recent investment in a University of Tel Aviv project aimed at teaching computers regret and hindsight.

The project concedes that computers can’t actually “feel” regret like humans do, but its director, Professor Yishay Mansour says:

“If the servers and routing systems of the Internet could see and evaluate all the relevant variables in advance, they could more efficiently prioritize server resource requests, load documents and route visitors to an Internet site, for instance.”

Mansour has developed a self-teaching algorithm that can apparently “adapt to the situation at hand,” depending upon the task.

So where does Google fit in? The company is interested in leveraging the technology “to improve its own online technologies and businesses, such as its AdWords and Adsense advertising programs.”

And though the press release doesn’t explicitly say it, you can bet that Google is interested in using this technology for its search functionality. Former CEO Eric Schmidt has made numerous references to the idea that Google may someday be able to “just know” what you want to search for.

As recently as February, Schmidt remarked:

“We still think of search as something you type. Perhaps a decade from now, you will think, well, that was interesting, I used to type but now it just knows…

…Technically, with your permission, we know where you are, we know your history, we can do data extraction and look at what it tells us.”

If that little computer in your hand you call a cell phone could someday “see and evaluate all the relevant variables in advance,” as Professor Mansour claims, it may very well “just know” what you want sooner than you think.

(via Engadget)

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