AI

Vol. 4 No. 4 – May 2006

AI

Articles

AI Gets a Brain

In the 50 years since John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence, much progress has been made toward identifying, understanding, and automating many classes of symbolic and computational problems that were once the exclusive domain of human intelligence. Much work remains in the field because humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs—something children can do even before they learn to speak.

AI Gets a Brain

New technology allows software to tap real human intelligence.

JEFF BARR and LUIS FELIPE CABRERA, AMAZON WEB SERVICES

In the 50 years since John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence, much progress has been made toward identifying, understanding, and automating many classes of symbolic and computational problems that were once the exclusive domain of human intelligence. Much work remains in the field because humans still significantly outperform the most powerful computers at completing such simple tasks as identifying objects in photographs—something children can do even before they learn to speak.

Software developers with innovative ideas for businesses and technologies are constrained by the limits of artificial intelligence. In today’s business landscape where companies are more cost-conscious than ever, projects that require a vast network of humans are scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb and often scrapped because the cost of establishing and managing a network of skilled people to do the work outweighs the value of completing it. If software developers could programmatically access and incorporate human intelligence into their applications, a whole new class of innovative businesses and applications would be possible. This is the goal of Amazon Mechanical Turk:1 to give software developers and businesses the power to use human intelligence as a core component of their applications and businesses. With Amazon Mechanical Turk, people are freer to innovate because they can now imbue software with real human intelligence.

by Jeff Barr, Luis Felipe Cabrera

Search Considered Integral

Most corporations must leverage their data for competitive advantage. The volume of data available to a knowledge worker has grown dramatically over the past few years, and, while a good amount lives in large databases, an important subset exists only as unstructured or semi-structured data. Without the right systems, this leads to a continuously deteriorating signal-to-noise ratio, creating an obstacle for busy users trying to locate information quickly. Three flavors of enterprise search solutions help improve knowledge discovery:

Search Considered Integral

A combination of tagging, categorization, and navigation can help end-users leverage the power of enterprise search.

RYAN BARROWS and JIM TRAVERSO, MORGAN STANLEY

Most corporations must leverage their data for competitive advantage. The volume of data available to a knowledge worker has grown dramatically over the past few years, and, while a good amount lives in large databases, an important subset exists only as unstructured or semi-structured data. Without the right systems, this leads to a continuously deteriorating signal-to-noise ratio, creating an obstacle for busy users trying to locate information quickly. Three flavors of enterprise search solutions help improve knowledge discovery:

Raw engines. These are toolkits that developers can use to embed high-powered search into their applications. A popular upcoming implementation is Lucene, an open source Apache project available in Java, .NET, Python, C++, and others. You need to implement the crawling, parsing, and UI yourself; however, the engine handles Boolean logic, fuzzy queries, stemming, and hit highlighting. Commercial offerings, such as Verity (bought by Autonomy), Fast, or Coveo, provide the same core features as Lucene, but may add an entity extractor, thesaurus, automated classification, and a number of other leading features.

by Ryan Barrows, Jim Traverso

Curmudgeon

The Calculus Formally Known as Pi

Dominic Behan once asked me in a rare sober moment (for both of us): “What’s the point of knowing something if others don’t know that you know it?”1 To which I replied with the familiar, “It’s not what you don’t know that matters, it’s what you know that ain’t so.” I was reminded of these dubious epistemological observations while reading Stephen Sparkes’ interview with Steve Ross-Talbot in the March 2006 issue of ACM Queue.2 In promoting Robin Milner’s pi-calculus as the provably reliable backbone for BPM (business process management), Ross-Talbot eases our fears of the arcane, abstract pi-calculus axiomatics by stressing that the layman/programmer “would never need to see the algorithms...never need to read the literature, unless you were having trouble sleeping at night.”

The Calculus Formally Known as Pi

The hype over the pi-calculus

Stan Kelly-Bootle, Author

Dominic Behan once asked me in a rare sober moment (for both of us): “What’s the point of knowing something if others don’t know that you know it?”1 To which I replied with the familiar, “It’s not what you don’t know that matters, it’s what you know that ain’t so.” I was reminded of these dubious epistemological observations while reading Stephen Sparkes’ interview with Steve Ross-Talbot in the March 2006 issue of ACM Queue.2 In promoting Robin Milner’s pi-calculus as the provably reliable backbone for BPM (business process management), Ross-Talbot eases our fears of the arcane, abstract pi-calculus axiomatics by stressing that the layman/programmer “would never need to see the algorithms...never need to read the literature, unless you were having trouble sleeping at night.”

This is a perfectly valid attitude in the many areas where academic CS creeps up on practical computing. The very notion of abstraction, in the sense of hiding from us the deeper—nay, boring—details, is a computing sine qua non resting essentially on our respect for experts in other domains (until proved otherwise). What really happens when you drag-and-drop is beyond all reasonable knowing, so don’t ask! The familiar “need-to-know” criterion is, of course, often diluted to at least the “need-to-know-a-bit-about” urge by inherent human curiosity. Thus we can, without drinking too deeply at the Perrierian spring,3 hope to follow the gist when the gurus’ schisms break out, as they are oft wont to do.

by Stan Kelly-Bootle

Articles

The Network's New Role

Companies have always been challenged with integrating systems across organizational boundaries. With the advent of Internet-native systems, this integration has become essential for modern organizations, but it has also become more and more complex, especially as next-generation business systems depend on agile, flexible, interoperable, reliable, and secure cross-enterprise systems.

The Network’s NEW Role

Application-oriented networks can help bridge the gap between enterprises.

TAF ANTHIAS and KRISHNA SANKAR, CISCO SYSTEMS

Companies have always been challenged with integrating systems across organizational boundaries. With the advent of Internet-native systems, this integration has become essential for modern organizations, but it has also become more and more complex, especially as next-generation business systems depend on agile, flexible, interoperable, reliable, and secure cross-enterprise systems.

This article describes the various demanding scenarios in the cross-enterprise domain and offers perspectives in addressing these challenges. We look at the trajectory and locus of cross-enterprise systems, the many ways in which the various complexities are addressed now, and how they can be simplified in the future. It is in this context that the network emerges as one of the alternatives, acting as an intermediary for cross-enterprise integration of federated business services, with an application orientation.

by Taf Anthias, Krishna Sankar

Interviews

A Conversation with Werner Vogels

Many think of Amazon as 'that hugely successful online bookstore.' You would expect Amazon CTO Werner Vogels to embrace this distinction, but in fact it causes him some concern.

A Conversation with Werner Vogels

Learning from the Amazon technology platform

Many think of Amazon as “that hugely successful online bookstore.” You would expect Amazon CTO Werner Vogels to embrace this distinction, but in fact it causes him some concern. “I think it’s important to realize that first and foremost Amazon is a technology company,” says Vogels. And he’s right. Over the past years, Vogels has helped Amazon grow from an online retailer (albeit one of the largest, with more than 55 million active customer accounts) into a platform on which more than 1 million active retail partners worldwide do business. Behind Amazon’s successful evolution from retailer to technology platform is its SOA (service-oriented architecture), which broke new technological ground and proved that SOAs can deliver on their promises.

Vogels came to Amazon from Cornell University, where he was working on high-availability systems and the management of scalable enterprise systems. He maintains that research spirit at Amazon, which regularly must solve problems never before encountered. “Maybe other companies call it research. We just call it development,” he points out.

Kode Vicious

Phishing for Solutions

Dear KV, I noticed you covered cross-site scripting a few issues back (Vicious XSS, December-January 2005-2006), and I'm wondering if you have any advice on another Web problem, phishing. I work at a large financial institution and every time we roll out a new service, the security team comes down on us because either the login page looks different or they claim that it's easy to phish information from our users using one of our forms. It's not like we want our users to be phished--we actually take this quite seriously--but I don't think it's a technical problem. Our users are just stupid and give away their information to anyone who seems willing to put up a reasonable fake of one of our pages. I mean, come on, doesnt the URL give away enough information?

Phishing for Solutions

Kode Vicious could devote every month to security questions and never run out. Whether it’s the latest worm or ongoing problems such as this month’s topic—phishing—security provides a cornucopia of challenging programmatic puzzles. Phishing alone warrants a book-length treatment, but that won’t discourage KV. Here he offers helpful hints for taming this wily beast.

Dear KV,
I noticed you covered cross-site scripting a few issues back (“Vicious XSS,” December-January 2005-2006), and I’m wondering if you have any advice on another Web problem, phishing. I work at a large financial institution and every time we roll out a new service, the security team comes down on us because either the login page looks different or they claim that it’s easy to phish information from our users using one of our forms. It’s not like we want our users to be phished—we actually take this quite seriously—but I don’t think it’s a technical problem. Our users are just stupid and give away their information to anyone who seems willing to put up a reasonable fake of one of our pages. I mean, come on, doesn’t the URL give away enough information?
Phrustrated

by George Neville-Neil

Interviews

Major Eclipse

As the Eclipse Foundation gears up to ship its most comprehensive set of open source application development tools to date, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, explains why a best-of-breed approach based on an integrated set of open source tools ultimately will provide a better experience for developers.

As the Eclipse Foundation gears up to ship its most comprehensive set of open source application development tools to date, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, explains why a best-of-breed approach based on an integrated set of open source tools ultimately will provide a better experience for developers.