Can you teach AI common sense?

Common sense. A highly valued trait among our peers, partners, friends, and honestly anyone we interact with on a regular basis. Difficult to define at best, common sense is a necessary component to decision-making, helping us navigate any number of choices we must make day to day, to presumably achieve the best outcomes.

And while common sense is an inherently human trait, much like our emotions, as applications of artificial intelligence in our daily lives continue to grow, from customer service interface to smart home technology, can common sense be introduced to this technology to improve their decision-making capability? Or will technology’s inability to incorporate common sense place a hard stop on the role that AI will ultimately play? Joining me to take a closer look at the challenges of introducing common sense into AI decision-making is Mayank Kejriwal with the University of Southern California, who is leading a research team exploring this very topic.

There’s a very famous story of a grocery chain, they had a run on their toilet paper, so there were a lot of online orders for toilet paper. And there was an AI system that shut down the ordering system online because it thought there was some kind of attack that is happening on the system, and it did not realize that because of the pandemic there is a move towards stocking up on essentials. You know, it would have known that if it had common sense.

Interviewed this episode:

Mayank Kejriwal

University of Southern California

Mayank Kejriwal holds joint appointments at the University of Southern California as a research assistant professor (Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering) and research team leader (Information Sciences Institute). His research is in applied Artificial Intelligence, including healthcare, e-commerce, understanding natural disasters, fighting human trafficking, and other applications of social good. He is the co-author of an MIT Press textbook on knowledge graphs, and has published over 25 journal articles on AI and computational social science. His research is primarily funded by the US Darpa Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).