Our phones could help us make decisions in future

Computer scientists from MIT have developed software that could help us make decisions by predicting the probability of success of different options.

Brian Williams, from the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, says he and his colleagues wanted to make ‘a better Siri’. So rather than just retrieve information, it can help you make plans. For example, if you want to plan a journey by bus, you can specify your particular needs – like how long you have to get there, and how reliable you need the buses on that route to be – and the software calculates solutions for you based on probability models. If it can’t find exactly what you need, it’ll suggest small amendments to your requirements that could help you get where you want to go.

As well as probability, it also assesses risk, incorporating how willing you are to accept failure (e.g. are you meeting a friend or going to a job interview) into its calculations, making it making it more advanced than previous similar applications. It could also be super helpful for people who struggle with planning/are perpetually late, as it can tell users how likely their overambitious plans are to succeed (no, you can’t drive from Sheffield to London in two hours, nice try) and suggest more realistic alternatives given factors like time, route preferences, and traffic.

Peng Yu and Cheng Fang, graduate students in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics who worked on the project with Williams, will present the results of their research alongside him this month at the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.

And maybe one day our phones will be able to not only advise us on practical decisions but also warn us about terrible personal decisions we’re in danger of making, too. I can’t wait.

Image via Pixabay.

Diane Shipley