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Looking to the Future of Data Science

27bits-etzioni-articleInline-v2Steve Lohr, in the New York Times, features UW CSE’s Oren Etzioni (now CEO of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence), with cameos by UW CSE’s Ed Lazowska and UW CSE affiliate professor Eric Horvitz (Microsoft Research). Etzioni and Horvitz delivered keynotes earlier this week at KDD, the ACM Conference onĀ  Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining.

“Mr. Etzioni acknowledged the gains made possible by big data methods – identifying patterns and calculating statistical probabilities – in tasks like speech recognition and computer vision. But he then proceeded to underline the limits of the big data approach …

“At the Allen Institute, financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Mr. Etzioni is leading a growing team of 30 researchers that is working on systems that move from data to knowledge to theories, and then can reason. The test, he said, is: ‘Does it combine things it knows to draw conclusions?’ This is the step from correlation, probabilities and prediction to a computer system that can understand, in its way. That seems a steep climb of the semantic ladder of meaning. ‘We are trying to build these semantic models,’ Mr. Etzioni noted …

“Mr. Etzioni, other scientists say, makes a good point, but the current enthusiasm for big data methods is understandable. ‘The dramatic successes of big data have caused everyone to rush over to that side of the boat,’ said Edward Lazowska, a professor at the University of Washington, who is on the board of the Allen Institute …

AI2LogoEric Horvitz, a computer scientist at Microsoft Research, emphasized all that can be done with big data tools … Mr. Horvitz described several projects he and his team were working on. One involves using patient, treatment and historical data to predict which hospital patients are most at risk of being readmitted within 30 days, and suggest follow-up monitoring. Studies show that 20 percent of Medicare patients return to the hospital within 30 days at an estimated cost of $17.5 billion a year, in addition to the toll in human suffering …

“In an interview, Mr. Horvitz, who is an academic adviser to the Allen Institute, agreed with Mr. Etzioni that the long-range goal is computer systems that can reason rather than merely recognize patterns and correlations and make predictions. But Mr. Horvitz chose a different emphasis. ‘I think we can have a huge impact in so many fields, in the shorter term, along the way to reasoning systems,’ Mr. Horvitz said.”

Read more here.

August 28, 2014