Tech Stuff

Semantics and Artificial Intelligence

Well that may be overstating things a bit, but now that I’ve got your attention take a look at the Calais Viewer. Paste some text into the entry field and submit it, and it parses it for the specific meaning using natural language processing.

My friend Eric Hoffer was a guest speaker at the Web 2.0 Day I co-led at SHU, and he turned us on to this. It’s not perfect, but by and large it does an amazing job of picking out persons vs. political persons, places, cities, countries, industry terms and educational references. It correctly identified “Rolling Stones” as an “organization,” not more-than-one moving rocks.

I took a few paragraphs from a New York Times business section story on Citigroup:

Citigroup said Friday morning that it lost $2.5 billion, or 54 cents a share, in the second quarter.

The loss was largely caused by $7.2 billion of write-downs of Citigroup’s investments in mortgages and other loans and by a weakness in the consumer market, which cost Citigroup $4.4 billion in credit losses and $2.5 billion to increase reserves. Analysts had expected a loss of 66 cents a share.

But the chief executive, Vikram Pandit, positioned the $2.5 billion loss as progress. Last quarter, the financial conglomerate lost $5.1 billion.

“We cut our second-quarter losses in half compared to the first quarter,” Mr. Pandit said in a statement. “While there is still much to do, we are encouraged by our progress.”

It correctly identified Citigroup as a company, and Mr. Pandit as a person. That was easy. And it identified the last paragraph as a quotation. But it also parsed the third paragraph’s “the chief executive, Vikram Pandit” as a “professional person” and “quarter, the financial conglomerate lost $5.1 billion” as a company earnings announcement.

What’s the point? Well think about it next time your Google search returns three million results. By contextualizing a common word with multiple meanings (“orange”) accurately, the possibilities for getting computers to really understand what you’re looking for.

John Nichol Lindsley, Vice President of the Orange national bank of Orange, N.J., and head of the hardware business of John N. Lindsley, Inc., founded more than a century ago by his great-grandfather, died yesterday at his home, 76 Cleveland Street, Orange. He had been President of the Board of Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of Orange for twenty-five years. He was 72 years old. Mr. Lindsley was a director of the Orange Savings Bank and had been President of the Orange Police Commission.

“Orange” is a city; “Orange Savings Bank” is determined to be an company; “Orange Police Commission” an organization. “John N. Lindsley, Inc.” is a company, but “Mr. Lindsley” is a person. And so on.

Cut that three million down to a manageable few thousand and you’re getting somewhere!

Tom McGee has been building web sites since 1995, and blogging here since 2006. Currently a senior developer at Seton Hall University, he's also a freelance web programmer and musician. Contact him if you have the need for a blog, web site, redesign or custom programming!

One thought on “Semantics and Artificial Intelligence”

  1. What I find most interesting is that we are still hniavg this conversation and debate-about whether or not the banks are lending, whether or not business want or need lending, whether of not lending has increased or decreased relative to whatever measure bla bla bla Does no one else see the utter absurdity of even hniavg this discussion at all, let alone almost 3 years on? The US Government and the US citizenry (both individual and business) have completely and utterly acquiesed to the holistic outsourcing of the control of their entire financial and economic system infrastructure to the largest banks. While also increasingly socializing the risk, and privatizing the profits to the benefit of these same banks.Duh. The elephant in the living room is that the larger financial system should be treated and regulated as all utilities are. Every US citizen and every US business and every US government entity needs access to currency, capital, loans, deposits, transaction facilitation, etc. The financial system is far too important to far too many for the US to abrogate its responsibilities, and BEG big banks to lend or do anything else, often after another series of concessions-further socialization of risk, and privatization of profits. Does no one else seriously see problems with the US government lacking control or influence in the US financial and economic infrastructure? Of hniavg to depend on the whims of the big banks for such exceedingly critical national infrastructure?Utilities are excruciatingly highly regulated. Gas and electric utilities can not increase rates without demonstrating need, and receiving approval from public utilities commissions-following hearings and process. These same utilities, due to public policy considerations and the universal understanding of their critical infrastructure status-i.e. nothing happens in the economy without their services, are affirmatively prohibited from even thinking about engaging in the nonsense the banks continue to get away with. They simply can’t. We have recognized that natural gas and electric service are critical infrastructure-and, we regulate supply, pricing, distribution, and even service terms-i.e. a utility can not simply turn a customer off for non-payment when its 20 below zero-there are unique notice and due process logistics for this to occur. If gas and electric utilities operated like US banks are allowed to operate, rates would fluctuate wildly, it could cost $100,000.00 to get service connected, a never ending medley of fees could be extracted, blackouts would occur if utility companies decide they’re not making enough money serving this or that market, and simply refuse to generate or distribute energy-having re-allocated resources elsewhere for larger gain It would be a veritable nightmare. Why is the financial and economic system infrastructure different? I submit, that it is not. And, many civilized countries treat it accordingly, for instance Canada, where I now live. The Canadian banking system is regulated far more like utilities are than the US system. Canadian financial institutions can’t even think about doing a great deal of what US banks routinely get away with.Now, I have zero confidence that the US government will actually reassert its control over the US financial and economic infrastructure until the whole thing implodes, and there is no other choice. Financial services now generates 40% of US GDP. The highest paid participants in the economy work at large financial institutions. The largest employers in many communities are these same institutions.And, as for regulation, just as with utilities, regualte activity, not corporate entity type. This would completely eliminate regulatory arbitrage and shopping, and business structure gymnastics-Goldman spontaneously becoming a bank holding company. Specifically, if you sell mortgages, here is the standard-build a competitive business model around these parameters ..Good luck!

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