The Best AI Program Still Flunks an Eighth-Grade Science Test

Will Knight:

For all the remarkable progress being made in artificial intelligence, and warnings about the upheaval this might bring, the smartest computer would still struggle to make it through the eighth grade.

A contest organized by researchers at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), invited programmers to create a program capable of taking a modified version of a conventional eighth-grade science test. The results of the competition were announced Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).

The winner, a contestant based in Israel called Chaim Linhart, combined several established machine-learning techniques with large databases of scientific information to correctly answer 59 percent of the questions. Like other participants, Linhart fed his computer system hundreds of thousands of questions paired with correct answers so that it could learn to come up with the right answer.

A score of almost 60 percent might disappoint most parents, but it is remarkable for a computer. The test used for the contest was, however, simplified slightly to make it practical for computers to attempt. Diagrams were removed, for example, and only questions with multiple-choice answers were used.