Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why Are We Still Waiting for Natural Language Processing?

Try typing this, or any question with roughly the same meaning, into the Google search box:

Which UK papers are not part of the Murdoch empire?

Your results (and you could get identical ones by typing the same words in the reverse order) will contain an estimated two million or more pages about Rupert Murdoch and the newspapers owned by his News Corporation. Exactly what you did not ask for.

Putting quotes round the search string freezes the word order, but makes things worse: It calls not for the answer (which would be a list including The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, etc.) but for pages where the exact wording of the question can be found, and there probably aren’t any (except this post).

Machine answering of such a question calls for not just a database of information about newspapers but also natural language processing (NLP). I’ve been waiting for NLP to arrive for 30 years. Whatever happened?

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