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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
For several years, computers have made short work of human champions in Go and chess. Now, artificial intelligence researchers are attempting an improbable path even closer to human capability: Pictionary, a guessing game requiring not strategy but the confoundingly hard-to-duplicate quality of common sense.
What's happening: Researchers at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence have developed an AI program that can play either side side of Pictionary, a game in which one player draws a picture to represent a word or phrase for the other player to guess.
The big picture: Pictionary only seems straightforward. Like so many tasks that come naturally to children, it's a challenge for even the most advanced AI.
The AI player is impressively good, but it doesn't quite feel like a grandmaster yet. If the Allen researchers can make the leap from where they are now to mastering common sense, they will have accomplished a lot: Common sense is hard to define precisely, yet it's an underestimated and central human quality, essential for communication.
What they did: The Allen researchers' AI watched humans play 100,000 games. It was also taught how to find words that have characteristics in common — like bread, fruit and food.
Kaveh had a couple of experts play the game:
Watching the computer tells us something about people, too. Since the AI trained by watching humans play, it has absorbed some human biases.
At the the Frankfurt-Hoechst station. Photo: Arne Dedert/AFP/Getty
A tension has surfaced in Europe between a fear of China effectively buying up whole industries and local companies becoming too large: Public officials are uncertain which dynamic is more pernicious.
Driving the news: In a decision tomorrow, the European Commission is expected to veto the railroad merger of Germany's giant Siemens and France's Alstom.
"The merger decision has broader political significance because it can either vindicate or try to stop the more statist interests in the economy that have been brewing for many years," says Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
The bottom line: There has been a profound shift in European sentiment about big and growing private companies, which until recently have been championed by the U.K. and Germany against more state-led impulses of France, Kirkegaard tells Axios.
Big Tech is on an earnings tear. While under enormous scrutiny over their concentration of market power and control of data, the big American technology companies are reporting an enormous surge in earnings (see chart).
An ironic exception: Apple, which has very publicly set itself up as a critic of the data and financial practices of its Big Tech brethren, had the only revenue loss of the big six companies.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Tech is splitting the U.S. workforce (Eduardo Porter — NYT)
America's economic data divergence (Courtenay Brown — Axios)
Alibaba is playing catch-up on cloud businesses (Naoki Matsuda, Mariko Hirano — Nikkei Asian Review)
Brexit and higher education (Andrew Jack — FT)
Ridding the Earth of Garbage Island (Carolyn Kormann — New Yorker)
In Indonesia. Photo: Eko Siswono Toyudho/Anadolu/Getty
Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Pig. As part of its Chinese New Year celebration, CCTV, the state broadcasting network, runs a hugely popular variety show — viewed by nearly 1 billion people and featuring grand acts and celebrity masters of ceremony.
This year, there was a futuristic twist, Erica writes.
Erica's thought bubble: A nice idea, but I think I'd prefer the occasional video chat.