Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has developed an artificial intelligence that reads better than humans in a Stanford University reading and comprehension test.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. put its deep neural network model through its paces last week, asking the AI to provide exact answers to more than 100,000 questions comprising a quiz that’s considered one of the world’s most authoritative machine-reading gauges. The model developed by Alibaba’s Institute of Data Science of Technologies scored 82.44, edging past the 82.304 that rival humans achieved.

Alibaba said it’s the first time a machine has out-done a real person in such a contest. Microsoft achieved a similar feat, scoring 82.650 on the same test, but those results were finalized a day after Alibaba’s, the company said.

The Chinese e-commerce titan has joined the likes of Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. in a race to develop AI that can enrich social media feeds, target ads and services or even aid in autonomous driving. Beijing has endorsed the technology in a national-level plan that calls for the country to become the industry leader 2030.

Science fiction writer Robert Heinlein created Mike (Mycroft Holmes aka Fair Dinkum Thinkum), a computer that woke up in the classic 1966 novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and yes it was a voracious reader:

...Mike had voder/vocoder circuits supplementing his read-outs, print-outs, and decision-action boxes, and could understand not only classic programming but also Loglan and English, and could accept other languages and was doing technical translating - and reading endlessly. But in giving him instructions it was safer to use LogLan. If you spoke English, results might be whimsical; multi-valued nature of English gave option circuits too much leeway.

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