Toil and trouble: How ‘Macbeth’ could teach computers to think [Boston Globe]

Patrick Winston at his desk
June 2, 2018

By Globe Staff  June 02, 2018

Patrick Winston’s computer is learning about revenge, ambition, and murder. It knows that victory can make you happy. But it also knows you can’t be happy if you’re dead.

The computer had to learn these things in order to read “Macbeth” — or, rather, an extremely truncated version of Shakespeare’s blood-soaked Scottish tragedy. At just 37 sentences, the rough summary reduces the Bard’s immortal poetics to such clunkers as, “Witches had visions and danced” and “Lady Macbeth has bad dreams.”

But Winston, an MIT professor, thinks this bite-size “Macbeth” could help crack the biggest problem in artificial intelligence: how to build computer systems that can simulate the human mind’s unique powers of perception and insight.

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