Carnegie Mellon University has taught a computer how to read and learn from the internet.
According to Dennis Baron at the Oxford University press blog, the computer is called NELL and it is reading the internet and learning from it in much the same way that humans learn language and acquire knowledge. Basically by soaking it all up and figuring it out.
NELL is short for Never Ending Language Learner and apparently it is getting brainier every day.
NELL has learned over 440,000 separate things with an accuracy of 74 per cent. This is about the same as a C grade at school.
It judges the facts it finds. Some it promotes to the idea of being beliefs if they come from a single trusted source, or if they come from several less reliable sources.
One of the problems the boffins have is that more than half of what NELL gives a "beliefs status" too were made from evidence from less reliable sources.
This makes NELL more of a rumour mill than a trusted source and once NELL changes a fact to a belief, it stays a belief. It cannot unlearn stuff.
This is a big problem when NELL makes mistakes: the computer incorrectly labelled "right posterior" as a body part. How the boffins laughed.
NELL's human handlers had to tell NELL that Klingon is not an ethnic group, despite the fact that many earthlings think it is.
At the moment NELL thinks that the First Amendment is a musical instrument, the Second Amendment is a 'hobby,' and is completely unwilling to admit to any knowledge of the fifth amendment at all. A bit like the recording industry and most lawmakers in the US.