Google recently announced that it will help fund groundbreaking research by computer scientists and economists at Tel Aviv University. The Blavatnik School of Computer Science is attempting to help computers make better decisions using a term they dubbed “regret.”
Head of the program Professor Yishay Mansour began this project earlier this year at the International Conference on Learning Theory in Haifa, Israel. He and the other researchers are working on algorithms that would allow computers to learn from their past failures in an effort to make better predictions. This is referred to as “minimizing virtual regret” by Mansour.
“If the servers and routing systems of the Internet could see and evaluate all the relevant variables in advance, they could more efficiently prioritize server resource requests, load documents and route visitors to an Internet site, for instance,” says Mansour.
“Regret” is not really comparable to the human emotion that follows a night of heavy drinking or a bad relationship, but is more along the lines of measuring the distance between the desired outcome and the actual outcome.
Since the actions of people are wildly unpredictable, the algorithm would need to allow adaptation on the fly, and real-time decision making.
“We are able to change and influence the decision-making of computers in real-time. Compared to human beings, help systems can much more quickly process all the available information to estimate the future as events unfold – whether it’s a bidding war on an online auction site, a sudden spike of traffic to a media website, or demand for an online product,” says Mansour.
All of this research greatly interests Google, as would be expected. As Google grows, their need to be able to process large amounts of data in real-time also grows. Apparently the search giant is particularly interested in how this new technology can benefit AdWords and AdSense.
Masour will work with a 20 person team on the project, headed by Professor Noam Nisan of Hebrew University. Also involved will be the head of Google Israel, Professor Yossi Matias, a Tel Aviv University faculty member.
I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.