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Saturday, June 06, 2009

NLP: Natural Language Processing: Wrong question?

Matt Blackwell talks about natural language processing:
"increasing numbers of quantitative researchers are investigating how to have computers find answers to questions in texts. This task might appear easy on the outset (as it apparently did to early researchers in machine translation), but, as we know, natural languages are incredibly complicated."

It seems to me that, in the long run, we may be approaching this incorrectly. Instead of trying to write software that will be able to learn how to understand us, we should perhaps be learning to speak and write in a way computer software can understand. That's a much more realistic model.

That's certainly already begun, as anyone who fills out their timesheet online or uses ATMs and online banking as their primary communication vehicle with their financial institution should be well aware.

Other examples in which we have adapted to technology abound. We learned to eat tomatoes growing for shipping, not for eating. We eat mostly packaged food. We use carsthat are standardized (placement of controls) on roads that are standardized (traffic signals).

Sure, technology adapts to us somewhat, but we do a lot of adapting to technology.