Decades of research in artificial intelligence (AI) have produced formidable technologies that are providing immense benefit to industry, government, and society. AI systems can now translate across multiple languages, identify objects in images and video, streamline manufacturing processes, and control cars. The deployment of AI systems has not only created a trillion-dollar industry that is projected to quadruple in three years, but has also exposed the need to make AI systems fair, explainable, trustworthy, and secure. Future AI systems will rightfully be expected to reason effectively about the world in which they (and people) operate, handling complex tasks and responsibilities effectively and ethically, engaging in meaningful communication, and improving their awareness through experience. Achieving the full potential of AI technologies poses research challenges that require a radical transformation of the AI research enterprise, facilitated by significant and sustained investment. These are the major recommendations of a recent community effort coordinated by the Computing Community Consortium and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence to formulate a Roadmap for AI research and development over the next two decades.
Natural language understanding (NLU) of text is a fundamental challenge in AI, and it has received significant attention throughout the history of NLP research. This primary goal has been studied under different tasks, such as Question Answering (QA) and Textual Entailment (TE). In this thesis, we investigate the NLU problem through the QA task and focus on the aspects that make it a challenge for the current state-of-the-art technology. This thesis is organized into three main parts: In the first part, we explore multiple formalisms to improve existing machine comprehension systems. We propose a formulation for abductive reasoning in natural language and show its effectiveness, especially in domains with limited training data. Additionally, to help reasoning systems cope with irrelevant or redundant information, we create a supervised approach to learn and detect the essential terms in questions. In the second part, we propose two new challenge datasets. In particular, we create two datasets of natural language questions where (i) the first one requires reasoning over multiple sentences; (ii) the second one requires temporal common sense reasoning. We hope that the two proposed datasets will motivate the field to address more complex problems. In the final part, we present the first formal framework for multi-step reasoning algorithms, in the presence of a few important properties of language use, such as incompleteness, ambiguity, etc. We apply this framework to prove fundamental limitations for reasoning algorithms. These theoretical results provide extra intuition into the existing empirical evidence in the field.
This paper offers a multi-disciplinary review of knowledge acquisition methods in human activity systems. The review captures the degree of involvement of various types of agencies in the knowledge acquisition process, and proposes a classification with three categories of methods: the human agent, the human-inspired agent, and the autonomous machine agent methods. In the first two categories, the acquisition of knowledge is seen as a cognitive task analysis exercise, while in the third category knowledge acquisition is treated as an autonomous knowledge-discovery endeavour. The motivation for this classification stems from the continuous change over time of the structure, meaning and purpose of human activity systems, which are seen as the factor that fuelled researchers' and practitioners' efforts in knowledge acquisition for more than a century. We show through this review that the KA field is increasingly active due to the higher and higher pace of change in human activity, and conclude by discussing the emergence of a fourth category of knowledge acquisition methods, which are based on red-teaming and co-evolution.
Commonsense reasoning is in principle a central problem in artificial intelligence, but it is a very difficult one. One approach that has been pursued since the earliest days of the field has been to encode commonsense knowledge as statements in a logic-based representation language and to implement commonsense reasoning as some form of logical inference. This paper surveys the use of logic-based representations of commonsense knowledge in artificial intelligence research.