April 14, 2011, 2:16 PM — A team of researchers at Tel Aviv University is working on instilling "regret" in computers--with Google footing the bill. According to a press release on Wednesday, Google is funding a project from Tel Aviv University's Blavatnik School of Computer Science. The project, lead by Professor Yishay Mansour, is attempting to write an algorithm that will install "regret" in computers. This isn't really regret, however--it's more like hindsight.
Basically, the algorithm will let computers learn from their virtual experiences by measuring the distance between a desired outcome and an actual outcome. Using this measurement, Professor Mansour hopes that the computer will be able to predict the future and minimize future regret.
"If the servers and routing systems of the Internet could see and evaluate all the relevant variables in advance, they could more efficiently prioritize server resource requests, load documents and route visitors to an Internet site, for instance," Professor Mansour says.
And this is where Google comes in--not only is Mansour's vision efficient (Google is all about efficiency), but Google hopes to use Mansour's research to improve AdWords and Adsense.
"Compared to human beings, help systems can much more quickly process all the available information to estimate the future as events unfold--whether it's a bidding war on an online auction site, a sudden spike of traffic to a media website, or demand for an online product," Mansour says.
Hopefully, the algorithm will update itself as it runs and "adapt to the situation at hand." Mansour suggests that, after a task is finished the results will be "almost as if you knew all the variables in advance."
So yeah, it's not really regret, per se. Rather, computers will be able to look back on undesired outcomes, determine the difference between that outcome and the desired outcome, and predict what will happen in the future (based on this experience) and take steps to make the next outcome closer to the desired outcome.
For lack of a better word, Mansour calls it "regret." I do hope that computers are better at the "learning" part of the process than are, say, college students.