A 30-Year-Old AI Engine Finally Meets the Real World

By Dyllan Furness

If the story of Cyc were written by Aesop, it would probably read something like The Tortoise and the Hare. 

The 30-year-old artificial intelligence engine’s slow, steady, and idiosyncratic development is set to challenge recent pattern recognition methods that have seen AI algorithms conquer centuries-old board games and rush-hour traffic. Where the latter found success creating statistical models by processing troves of data on its own, Cyc’s professed skill will come from hardcoded rules and logic that allow it to understand how and why data points are related.

Cyc is a common sense engine, which over the past three decades has been fed thousands and thousands of encyclopedic facts. Since computers lack human-level inference, Cyc’s creators also fed it background knowledge – facts that we’d consider self-evident – to help connect the dots between what, how, and why things happened.

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