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Hey Wikipedia, the robots are coming

Larissa Anderson Jun 26, 2012

Raytheon BBN is making a kind of online encyclopedia system for the government – not for public use – written entirely by robots. It’s a project the Pentagon’s out-there research agency is funding (surprise!). These are articles, or dossiers, about people and events that are built using information taken from news stories. Right now the system scans news from about 40 online news sources in English, Chinese and Arabic. From MIT Technology Review:

It starts by detecting an “entity”—a name or an organization, such as Boko Haram, accounting for a variety of spellings. Then it identifies other entities (events and people) that are connected to it, along with statements made by and about the subject. “It’s automatically extracting relationships between entities,” Colbath says. “Here the machine has learned, by being given examples, how to put these relationships together and fill in those slots for you.”

The Boko Haram page goes on to list associated organizations and statements by and about the group. Clicking on any of them takes you back to original news sources, many of them translations of articles originally published in Arabic by sites such as Al Sharq in Qatar and Al Balad in Lebanon.” MIT Technology Review says the articles you find on Wikipedia are written more clearly, but points out that  if you go to Wikipedia, you’re limited to human imagination. These computer-written articles grab everything about the subject from every online news source it can, and it continually updates as time goes by. However, the robots still can’t get subtlety, humor or sarcasm, and it can’t separate out what’s the irrelevant. Yay humans! You’re still winning!

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