Monday, December 17, 2007

Faster chips? Or better software?

Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer in today's New York Times article "Faster Chips are Leaving Programmers in their Dust":

In the future, Mr. Mundie said, parallel software will take on tasks that make the computer increasingly act as an intelligent personal assistant.

“My machine overnight could process my in-box, analyze which ones were probably the most important, but it could go a step further,” he said. “It could interpret some of them, it could look at whether I’ve ever corresponded with these people, it could determine the semantic context, it could draft three possible replies. And when I came in in the morning, it would say, hey, I looked at these messages, these are the ones you probably care about, you probably want to do this for these guys, and just click yes and I’ll finish the appointment.”

We have the processing power to do this today, and do it on-the-fly, not overnight. What we need is better email software, not faster chips.

Processing power will clearly remain a problem for some time to come, but Mundie's example is one where the problem lies with building those "smart assistants", not adding chip horsepower.

1 comment:

lewisshepherd said...

You're mostly right, I think, except for certain very tough problems - which I believe is what he was getting at as the real "value-add" of the personal assistant. To quote him, "it could determine the semantic context, it could draft three possible replies...it would say, hey, I looked at these messages, these are the ones you probably care about, you probably want to do this for these guys"...

That's a really tough problem, the semantic aspects, and even to do that to the current extent of semantic analytic algorithms, you need heavy (i.e. long) compute cycles. Chip advances could really help there, because solving those problems is an AI challenge, even tougher for example than doing spam filtering etc, IMHO.

I like your blog...