A use for Classical AI -- Expert Systems

by Glpusna1 min read31st Mar 20212 comments



Two questions from different perspectives. Why do colleges teach calculus, physics, and chemistry? Why don't they just tell students to "read the book, answer the questions and solve the problems? When done, we will test you." There are a lot of issues that involve money, perceived prestige, etc., but one of the main reasons colleges can't do that is that most text books are not written for self learners. You have to work hard to learn without the guidance of an instructor/tutor. 

Today, we can use YouTube and other videos to help. But, consider what it would be like to have an expert system on each topic that is designed to help you learn? If you surf the net, you can follow links that you find interesting. Similarly, if you were learning and ran into difficulty, you could follow a link that would help you learn that topic. The current Covid virus has put a lot more demand on self-learning and has demonstrated how ineffective it is. Expert systems could be designed as study aids and as games to make learning easier and sometimes fun. 

As more people get replaced by robots and automation, there will be a need to educate them in new fields. AI could help with that education. The traditional educational  alternative is very costly. An additional alternative is to have people just wallow in ignorance while the world passes them by -- there was a Star Trek episode about a race of people who said: "We are smart" and who traveled through space acquiring technology that they could use but didn't understand. Our replaced workers could meet the same fate. A better alternative is to create educational expert systems to help them learn. I am currently developing an expert system in chemistry. There is an old saying: "If you want to learn something, teach it." I don't have anyone to teach, but I can learn a great deal by constructing my own system. In doing so, I have experienced first hand how poor some text books are. Two of my objectives are to solve each problem correctly and to explain, at any level of detail, what theories, factors, equations, etc. are involved. I have delayed indefinitely answering questions until an adequate NLP system exists. I choose Chemistry because we all know that "Chemists have all the solutions."

Any expert systems that have been or will be developed can be used as building blocks for more complex systems. Each such base system would be safe because it would not have any autonomous elements. We already have the knowledge, let's use AI to pass that knowledge on to others.

There may be a way to accomplish the above with deep learning, but I don't know enough about it to evaluate it adequately. In the meantime, I can fall back on what I do know and can learn.

Comments, criticism? As Dumbo might have said: "I'm almost all ears."


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First question : have you any experience in teaching ? People who don't tend to underestimate badly how hard teaching is and how rare true self-teacher are.

It's not a simple case of giving an answer, and giving a more detailed answer if the student does not understand. You need an adaptability that seems to be outside the reach of AI right now (emphasis "now"), as the exact same answer will be luminous for one student and completely obscure for an other. Besides teaching has a lot to do with transmitting tacit knowledge that is not easily shared through text or videos.

And you also have to take into account that for most student the main motivation to learn is a mixture of carrot/stick grades and something that comes from the personal relation with the teacher in a way that an online experience will not be able to replicate.

hanks for the comments. 

The only formal teaching I have done was as a US Navy Flight Instructor. However, in my other roles in life, I have had a lot of opportunities to teach/tutor/coach one-on-one and in groups. I am familiar with different student needs and learning styles, and with how different text books and other learning materials can satisfy the needs of different students. Interaction with a teacher/tutor/coach is important and much more efficient than searching through many textbooks and in small groups can create a bond. Unfortunately, the large class sizes in many courses in many colleges and on-line learning do not satisfy the bonding issue. There are also many courses of study that require hands-on learning that will never be satisfied by a textbook or a lecture class style. My main point is that expert systems in specific knowledge areas may be able to do a lot more than what many textbooks can do. Two very different styles of textbooks are the traditional textbook and the step-by-step books. Traditional textbook authors try to explain their topic in an engaging (sometimes entertaining, sometimes fun) way that can at times interfere with the logical flow of the topic. In step-by-step books, the author needs to start with the logical flow and then add variety. An expert system is a computer program that almost by definition needs to have a structured, logical flow. In any case, the future needs of society will require a lot more education for some people and a lot less for others. I think it will be beneficial to society to made getting a better education easier for all, and more attractive to those who aren't required to get become better educated.