"The Quest for Meaning", by Steve Silberman (Wired Magazine, Feb. 2000)

The entire article may be found here. For the weary cyber-traveler who doesn't have time to read the whole thing (it is 5 pages long), I give below a small but interesting excerpt. 

My brief introduction to the excerpt:  Autonomy is a highly successful British company that makes AI software based on (classical) Bayesian nets. The article is mainly about Autonomy's efforts, but it also mentions parallel efforts by Microsoft.  Below is the part of the article that mentions Microsoft. (Note:  Bayes was a reverend.)

Autonomy is just one of the companies putting Bayes' rule to use in ways its creator couldn't have imagined. The reverend is hard at work in Microsoft Office's wizards, which anticipate your needs by observing behaviors such as cursor movements and hesitations. The theorem also plays a role in the troubleshooting areas on Microsoft.com, where Bayesian methods of diagnosing user problems save the company hundreds of millions of dollars a year in service calls, says Eric Horvitz, one of 25 Bayesian specialists who work with Microsoft's product teams.

One of the most promising uses of these strategies, predicts Horvitz, will be in the development of what Microsoft calls continual computation. Anticipating a user's next move could cut the time spent launching frequently used apps. Likewise, your browser could pre-fetch potentially interesting pages and cache them for you in the background.

In Redmond, there's a prototype running on a desktop computer christened the Bayesian Receptionist. Using a voice interface rather than text, the Bayesian Receptionist greets visitors to the Conversational Architectures Group and answers questions as needed. Horvitz points out that the particular strength of Bayesian approaches - making accurate guesses under conditions of uncertainty - is especially relevant for interfaces that converse, because they have to depend on constant renegotiation of the subject at hand, following the flow of spontaneous exchange while navigating through topic hierarchies. "Uncertainty about communication is at the heart of conversation," Horvitz observes.

He believes the smart objects of the future will inevitably carry a piece of Bayes' legacy: "Data from Star Trek? He'll be Bayesian."

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