Update: February 15, 1996
Communication protocols are convenient for machines to talk together although
they suffer from a lot of disadvantages. Do you talk TCP/IP with your beloved
one, with your friends or do you negotiate with your commercial partners
in this language ? The response is NO ! What about versions of any computer
language, V1.0, V1.1, V2.0, V2.2, V3, V95, V96, V96.1.2 ?
The force of a natural language versus a computer language is that it
is understood even by non-literate people, by people of various origins
and it doesn't change so much in the course of a lifetime. So my opinion
is clear: computers should speak current English ( or any other natural
language depending on the purpose of the software ). This is absolutely
vital if they want to communicate.
Verbal versus Non-Verbal
On one side you have text and logic. On the other side you have images,
sounds, feelings, gesture. They are linked respectively to the left and
the right side of the brain. Both are important. Surely have you encountered
those persons, very clever at their work, but acting poorly in their private
life, or simply mismanaging their human relations. They lack the Emotional
Intelligence. We shouldn't make that mistake while building electronic
More basically, what is already non-verbal but still very close to text
is the format of a document. In which form is the message delivered ? Think
about a paper document. What about spaces, page dimensions, type of characters,
color of text or background. They are already giving an indication as to
the type of document. Is it a letter, a subscription form, an invoice,
an advertisement ? Is this document part of a book or a magazine ? Think
about the place of a date, a title, a signature. Simply think about the
icons of your operating system, those related to documents. What information
do they give you without reading the text underneath ? Can this information
be understood by an intelligent agent ? I think there is no doubt about
The User: a human being
The Intelligent Agent: The I-Agent is a combination of
hardware and software. Like we are made of bones, muscles, sensory elements,
speech capability, energy elements, all driven by a mind.
The Medium: The document: sheet of paper, book, video
tape, sound track, CD, diskette, web page, TV picture. It could be also
the physical world when we are face to face or it could be a virtual 3D
world, some kind of virtual village.
The Content: The knowledge.
What is a word but simulation of reality. In fact language is the first
of all virtual worlds. A word is a virtual element, a virtual object and
ideas, thinking are virtual actions, simulated actions, anticipated actions.
A word can carry a lot of information in a very compact size. A spreadsheet,
for example, is cute to see but difficult to communicate while a word summarizes
everything.: a "booming" economy, or a "stagnating" economy.
Before the action, we talk about planning. After the action,
we talk about evaluation or feedback. Feedback is essential to any action:
"Are we getting closer to the objective or not ?". In other words: "What
I'm doing, is it good or bad ?". While "good" may be understood by any
person even knowing nothing about computers or by any machine regardless
of its operating system, programming language or database format.
In machine style language:
if fdbk = "good"
else if fdbk = "bad"
What characterizes a human being versus other life forms is its function
called thinking. Let us stop for a minute our busy mind, let us consider
with respect our most precious wealth, the basis of all civilization: thinking.
Let us consider now that without words you cannot think, you cannot talk,
you cannot listen to anybody.
Human cognitive process is so huge that we might be discouraged to even
approach it. I believe that a good starting point, an object that an I-Agent
could handle easily, is a document. In other words: a computer file filled
up with words or, for you and me, a white page filled up with pieces of
thinking, pieces of information.
Of course, we may imagine a type of science-fiction hardware robot talking
with you, listening to the radio, reading your conventional newspaper,
attending company meetings, making presentations,...
More realistically, more subtly, the I-Agent of the near future will
be Internet based. It's already the case with search engines and other
search robots. What are they doing ? They are analyzing documents, in fact
HTML pages, which may be viewed as the basic medium for electronic intelligence.
Examples of text related intelligence
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Recognition of the subject, the verb, the complement.
Is it a question or an affirmation ?
The first word of a question is in 90 percent of the case: who, what, where,
when, how, how much, why, relating respectively to a person, an object,
a place, a time, a manner, a number, a goal ( see Memory chapter ).
Search directions given by a positive or negative autofeedback.
Intelligent data storage: if it's an affirmation, then it should be stored,
depending on the value of the information source.