March 20, 2023

These shortcomings, computer scientists say, could open the door to a revival of an idea Dr. Schank championed years ago. Adding facts about the physical world and structured reasoning can overcome the weaknesses of the new programs, known as large language models, they said.

“These models can do amazing things, but they need to be guided,” Kristian Hammond, an artificial intelligence researcher at Northwestern University and a former student of Dr. Schank’s, said by phone. “Roger Schank’s work now has partner technology in large-scale language models that can be brought to life.”

“I think it’s going to end up being part of his legacy,” Dr Hammond said.

Roger Carl Schank was born March 12, 1946 in Manhattan. His father, Maxwell, was an administrator with the New York State Liquor Department. His mother, Margaret (Rosenberg) Schank, ran a wholesale decorative bead business.

Dr. Schank attended New York public schools and graduated from Stuyvesant High School. He received his BS and Ph.D. degrees in mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Texas.

After a stint as an assistant professor at Stanford University, Dr. Schank became a professor of computer science and psychology at Yale University in 1974. During his 15-year tenure, he served as chair of the computer science department, became director of Yale’s AI program and mentored dozens of students as AI researchers at universities and companies, including Georgia Tech and Google.

Dr. Shank was a prolific writer. Two of his books for general readers have been named to The New York Times Book Review’s annual “Notable Books” list. “Cognitive Computing: On Language, Learning, and Artificial Intelligence,” published in 1984, co-authored with Peter G. Childers, described by Susan Chace in her review for the Times as an insight into the issues involved in language, learning, and artificial intelligence. “Clear, funny, and clever” described “attempting to make computers mimic human reasoning.” Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg called “Tell Me a Story: New Ideas for Real and Artificial Memory.” Perspective” (1990) is “an impressive book” that shows that “we can understand intelligence better by examining how people behave in everyday life, rather than by giving them trivial test questions .”

“The Cognitive Computer” (1984), by Dr. Schank with Peter G. Childers, was described by one reviewer as a “clear, entertaining, and clever” description of the problems involved in “trying to get computers to mimic human reasoning.”

In addition to his wife, Dr. Schank is survived by his daughter, Hana Schank. his son, Joshua Shank; and four grandchildren. His first marriage to Diane (Levine) Shank ended in divorce in 1998.

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