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  The Return of Artificial Intelligence

  It is becoming acceptable again to talk of computers performing

  human tasks such as problem-solving and pattern-recognition

  A After years in the wilderness, the term ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) seems poised to make a comeback. AI was big in the 1980s but vanished in the 1990s. It re-entered public consciousness with the release of AI, a movie about a robot boy. This has ignited public debate about AI, but the term is also being used once more within the computer industry. Researchers, executives and marketing people are now using the expression without irony or inverted commas. And it is not always hype. The term is being applied, with some justification, to products that depend on technology that was originally developed by AI researchers. Admittedly, the rehabilitation of the term has a long way to go, and some firms still prefer to avoid using it. But the fact that others are starting to use it again suggests that AI has moved on from being seen as an over-ambitious and under-achieving field of research.

  B The field was launched, and the term ‘artificial intelligence’ coined, at a conference in 1956, by a group of researchers that included Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy, Herbert Simon and Alan Newell, all of whom went on to become leading figures in the field. The expression provided an attractive but informative name for a research programme that encompassed such previously disparate fields as operations research, cybernetics, logic and computer science. The goal they shared was an attempt to capture or mimic human abilities using machines. That said, different groups of researchers attacked different problems, from speech recognition to chess playing, in different ways; AI unified the field in name only. But it was a term that captured the public imagination.

  C Most researchers agree that AI peaked around 1985. A public reared on science-fiction movies and excited by the growing power of computers had high expectations. For years, AI researchers had implied that a breakthrough was just around the corner. Marvin Minsky said in 1967 that within a generation the problem of creating ‘artificial intelligence’ would be substantially solved. Prototypes of medical-diagnosis programs and speech recognition software appeared to be making progress. It proved to be a false dawn. Thinking computers and household robots failed to materialise, and a backlash ensued. ‘There was undue optimism in the early 1980s,’ says David Leake, a researcher at Indiana University. ‘Then when people realised these were hard problems, there was retrenchment. By the late 1980s, the term AI was being avoided by many researchers, who opted instead to align themselves with specific sub-disciplines such as neural networks, agent technology, case-based reasoning, and so on."

  D Ironically, in some ways AI was a victim of its own success. Whenever an apparently mundane problem was solved, such as building a system that could land an aircraft unattended, the problem was deemed not to have been AI in the first place. ‘If it works, it can’t be AI,’ as Dr Leake characterises it. The effect of repeatedly moving the goal-posts in this way was that AI came to refer to ‘blue-sky’ research that was still years away from commercialisation. Researchers joked that AI stood for ‘almost implemented’. Meanwhile, the technologies that made it onto the market, such as speech recognition, language translation and decision-support software, were no longer regarded as AI. Yet all three once fell well within the umbrella of AI research.

  E But the tide may now be turning, according to Dr Leake. HNC Software of San Diego, backed by a government agency, reckon that their new approach to artificial intelligence is the most powerful and promising approach ever discovered. HNC claim that their system, based on a cluster of 30 processors, could be used to spot camouflaged vehicles on a battlefield or extract a voice signal from a noisy background — tasks humans can do well, but computers cannot. ‘Whether or not their technology lives up to the claims made for it, the fact that HNC are emphasising the use of AI is itself an interesting development,’ says Dr Leake.

  F Another factor that may boost the prospects for AI in the near future is that investors are now looking for firms using clever technology, rather than just a clever business model, to differentiate themselves. In particular, the problem of information overload, exacerbated by the growth of e-mail and the explosion in the number of web pages, means there are plenty of opportunities for new technologies to help filter and categorise information — classic AI problems. That may mean that more artificial intelligence companies will start to emerge to meet this challenge.

  G The 1969 film, 2001:A Space Odyssey, featured an intelligent computer called HAL 9000. As well as understanding and speaking English, HAL could play chess and even learned to lipread. HAL thus encapsulated the optimism of the 1960s that intelligent computers would be widespread by 2001. But 2001 has been and gone, and there is still no sign of a HAL-like computer. Individual systems can play chess or transcribe speech, but a general theory of machine intelligence still remains elusive. It may be, however, that the comparison with HAL no longer seems quite so important, and AI can now be judged by what it can do, rather than by how well it matches up to a 30-year-old science-fiction film. ‘People are beginning to realise that there are impressive things that these systems can do.’ says Dr Leake hopefully.

  Questions 27-31

  Reading Passage 3 has seven paragraphs, A-G.

  Which paragraph contains the following information?

  Write the correct letter A-G in boxes 27-31 on your answer sheet.

  NB You may use any letter more than once.

  27 how AI might have a military impact

  28 the fact that AI brings together a range of separate research areas

  29 the reason why AI has become a common topic of conversation again

  30 how AI could help deal with difficulties related to the amount of information available electronically

  31 where the expression AI was first used

  Questions 32-37

  Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3?

  In boxes 32-37 on your answer sheet, write

  TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

  FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

  NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this

  32 The researchers who launched the field of AI had worked together on other projects in the past.

  33 In 1985, AI was at its lowest point.

  34 Research into agent technology was more costly than research into neural networks.

  35 Applications of AI have already had a degree of success.

  36 The problems waiting to be solved by AI have not changed since 1967.

  37 The film 2001: A Space Odyssey reflected contemporary ideas about the potential of AI computers.

  Questions 38-40

  Choose the correct letter A, B, C or D.

  Write your answers in boxes 38-40 on your answer sheet.

  38 According to researchers, in the late 1980s there was a feeling that

  A a general theory of AI would never be developed.

  B original expectations of AI may not have been justified.

  C a wide range of applications was close to fruition

  D more powerful computers were the key to further progress.

  39 In Dr Leake’s opinion, the reputation of AI suffered as a result of

  A changing perceptions.

  B premature implementation

  C poorly planned projects.

  D commercial pressures.

  40 The prospects for AI may benefit from

  A existing AI applications.

  B new business models.

  C orders from internet-only companies.

  D new investment priorities.


  Question 27



  定位原文:E段第3句 “...could be used to spot camouflaged vehicles on a battlefield...”

  解题思路:camouflage(伪装)和battlefield (战场)两个词都证明这一段提到了AI的军事用途。答案为E。

  Question 28

  答案: B

  关键词:bring together/ separate research areas

  定位原文: B段第2句 “...a research programme that…”

  解题思路: 这个研究领域涵盖了先前几个毫不相关的领域,如工序研究、控制论、逻辑和计算机科学。答案为B。

  Question 29

  答案: A

  关键词: reason/ common topic / again

  定位原文: A段内容

  解题思路: 这一段解释了AI回归的原因。答案为A。

  Question 30


  关键词:difficulties / amount / information available electronically

  定位原文: F段第2句“In particular…”

  解题思路: AI在处理大量信息方面很有帮助。答案为F。

  Question 31



  定位原文: B段第1句“The field…”

  解题思路: 定位句中 coin的意思是“创造”,证明AI一词是在1956年第一次被创造出来的。答案为B。

  Question 32



  定位原文: B段第1句 “The field…”

  解题思路: 这句话仅仅提到了AI这一领域的开创者们后来都成了领军人物,但是并没有提到他们在过去是否进行过合作。这是一道明显的画蛇添足式的NOT GIVEN题目。

  Question 33



  定位原文: C段第1句

  解题思路: peak一词是指达到顶峰,与the lowest point正好相反。

  Question 34


  关键词: agent technology/neural networks

  定位原文: C段最后1句

  解题思路: 这句话只是简单地提到了神经网络和智能主体技术,并未将两者在花费上作任何比较,显然是一道典型的NOT GIVEN题型。

  Question 35

  答案: TRUE


  定位原文: D段最后两句

  解题思路: 这句话提出人工智能研究中的三项技术已经取得了一定程度的商业成功。

  Question 36

  答案: FALSE


  定位原文: E段和F段内容

  解题思路: 在这两段中虽然没有直接提到人工智能所面临的问题是否已经变化,但是字里行间都在暗示变化正在产生。人工智能将会被应用到军事,谍报、信息处理等崭新领域。所以题目中提到的一成不变显然是错误的。

  Question 37

  答案: TRUE

  关键词:A Space Odyssey

  定位原文: G段第3句

  解题思路: encapsulate 是“概括”的意思,contemporary 与1960s 对应。HAL集中体现了 20世纪60年代的乐观情绪,认为到了 2001年,智能计算机将得到广泛应用。

  Question 38

  答案: B

  关键词: late 1980s

  定位原文: C段内容

  解题思路: A/C/D三个答案不是太绝对,就是和文中叙述相反,只有B反映出了80年代末人们对人工智能的看法。

  Question 39

  答案: A

  关键词: Dr. Leake

  定位原文: C段倒数3句内容

  解题思路: retrenchment是“削减,减去,紧缩”的意思,在这里是指人们对人工智能的乐观态度正在消退。

  Question 40

  答案: D

  关键词: prospect

  定位原文: F段第1句

  解题思路: C答案过于绝对,应该首先被排除。A答案显然与上文这句话不相符,也应该被排除。而B答案在文中并没有被提到。

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