Meet RankBrain: The Artificial Intelligence That’s Now Processing Google …

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Is Talking Up AI Investments, Here’s Why.

Google has just gone public with the details of a new artificial intelligence called RankBrain, which the search giant is using to handle difficult queries. When Google-parent Alphabet Inc. reported eye-popping earnings last week its executives couldn’t stop talking up the company’s investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence.Crispin Odey’s flagship hedge fund plunged 16.8 percent in the first 16 days of October, reversing a September gain that had pared its losses for the year, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.People around the globe make more than 3.5 billion Google searches every day, and a small percentage of these are queries that have never been made before. During tests, Google engineers who design the algorithms correctly ranked 70 per cent of sites from a range of search terms while RankBrain achieved a score of 80 per cent.

It’s common to say you want to “Google something” when in reality you just want to search for something on the internet, that’s how deep Google has embedded itself in our hearts and minds. One would expect that Google search has handled almost every question possible but the reality is that it does come across ambiguous questions from time to time that can throw a spanner in the works. Bloomberg’s Jack Clark, who spoke with Google research scientist Greg Corrado about the new AI service, explained that “if RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.” According to Corrado, RankBrain has become the third most important signal determining what search results a user sees.

About 15 percent of searches sent daily haven’t been seen by Google before, and RankBrain is reportedly useful in answering those queries. “The other signals, they’re all based on discoveries and insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no learning,” Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google, told Bloomberg. Odey European posted a record monthly loss of 19 percent in April — described as “bloody” by Odey in an investor letter — before recovering in the following five months. Every time it makes these guesses, it monitors how the person making the searches responds to the results and can adjust its filtering process accordingly. RankBrain, instead, seems to be about one part of that algorithm, interpreting what someone searches for and understanding how to submit that request in various ways. As an example of an ambiguous search, Bloomberg cites questions like, “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” Google uses hundreds of “signals” designed to bring users the most useful search results, of which RankBrain is only one.

But according to the company, it’s already turned out to be inordinately effective, becoming the third-most important signal contributing to results. RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities – called vectors – that the computer can understand. But over the past few years — and especially since Hummingbird launched in 2013 — Google’s gotten better at understanding relationships between words. In June, researchers from the tech giant trained a computer to have conversations before posing a series of questions about technical support, general knowledge and even philosophy. Depending on the questions being asked, it can gather information from various sets of data, either based on an IT helpdesk manual, a movie and subtitles database, book quotes and so on.

In 2012, he got planning permission to build a 130,000-pound ($200,000) Palladian-style chicken house on his country estate a two-hour drive northwest of London. Earlier this week Facebook revealed it was taking on Google by indexing every single public post made on the site – which currently stand at 2 trillion. RankBrain is one of the “hundreds” of signals that go into an algorithm that determines what results appear on a Google search page and where they are ranked, Corrado said.

The site said its users are already making over 1.5 billion searches per day and it will now start serving personalised results to these users, based on their privacy settings For example, during a technical support question and answer session the machine was able to diagnose a problem with a user’s virtual privacy network, and solve the problem of a browser crashing. Once it had been trained, researchers asked more complex and advanced questions that either involved using a larger database for the general knowledge quiz, to more obscure answers such as the meanings of morality, ethics and life. The addition of RankBrain to search is part of a half- decade-long push by Google into AI, as the company seeks to embed the technology into every aspect of its business. “Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing,” said Google’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai on the company’s earnings call last week. Google search engineers, who spend their days crafting the algorithms that underpin the search software, were asked to eyeball some pages and guess which they thought Google’s search engine technology would rank on top.

In experiments, the company found that turning off this feature “would be as damaging to users as forgetting to serve half the pages on Wikipedia”, Corrado said. The rollout of RankBrain represents a year-long effort by a team that started with about five Google engineers, including search specialist Yonghui Wu, and deep-learning expert Thomas Strohmann. The effort expanded to dozens of people after Amit Singhal, the company’s senior vice-president of search, gave the green light for it to be rolled out across all of Google search in early 2015. “It’s very carefully monitored,” Corrado said, nothing that Google periodically updates the system by feeding it a load of new data to help it better reason with new concepts. Google’s decision to deploy AI into search shows that companies are starting to entrust their most valuable businesses to systems controlled in part by machine intelligence.

Microsoft declined to be more specific about whether it’s using a similar approach to Google. “Search is the cornerstone of Google,” Corrado said. “Machine learning isn’t just a magic syrup that you pour onto a problem and it makes it better.

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