The Role of Intelligent Systems in the National Information Infrastructure, страница 2

Second, AI representations and techniques can support the development of a flexible infrastructure. To be useful, the NII must have intelligent indexing and provide convenient access to all forms of information. Doing so presents a significant challenge because the NII will contain information on a multitude of diverse subjects, and data represented in a wide variety of forms, including various natural languages, digital and video images, audio, geometric computer-aided design (CAD) models, mathematical equations, and database relations. Various areas of AI research and technology can help. Speech- and image-processing algorithms will allow systems to extract and identify multimedia content and index it with symbolic descriptions, thus enabling fast, flexible retrieval of answers to queries. Knowledge representation and reasoning methods will enable data translation services to convert information from one format to another, subject to semantic constraints. Work on agent architectures will provide the basis for constructing specialized software agents to act as subject-specific brokers, tracking the creation of new databases, noting updates to existing repositories, and answering queries in their targeted area.

Third, AI techniques can assist in the development of more powerful software tools and environments to support all stages of a project’s life cycle: specification, design, adaptation, construction, evaluation, and maintenance. These software development tools and environments will be used in constructing advanced user interfaces and the complex systems needed for National Challenge applications as well as the software needed for the NII itself. Currently, construction of large software systems is costly; subsequent evolution and reuse is problematic. AI representations and algorithms can aid the construction of rapid prototyping systems and enable the management of libraries containing reusable software modules and large knowledge bases. Advanced planning systems, combined with group-enabling software, will support increased efficiency of multiperson projects. The ability to populate synthetic environments with simulated people will enable virtual product testing and improve education and training.

The results of previous research and applications development place the field of AI in position to make enormous contributions to the NII and the National Challenge applications. Although the state-of-the art offers a substantial body of methods, representations, and algorithms, the full realization of this promise requires a concerted attack on several fundamental scientific problems.

This report recommends several basic research initiatives in AI, each of which has high potential for large payback to the NII endeavor. Speech and image processing will contribute to improved user interfaces and enable automatic classification of multimedia content. Knowledge representation structures, plausible reasoning algorithms, and large-scale ontologies will enable NII systems to reason about user objectives and abilities and infer the databases and services of most interest. Machine-learning and planning methods will provide the basis for systems that relieve the user from the need to memorize details of database protocols or personally track changes to network services; they can also be used to construct systems that automatically adapt to human preferences. Research on software agent architecture will enable more sophisticated interfaces, software development aids, and simulation systems. Development of computational models of collaboration will enable multiple software agents to coordinate and thus furnish enhanced network services; they can also provide the basis for building human-computer interface systems that collaborate with people in using NII resources to solve problems and perform tasks.


This report stems from a workshop that was organized by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and cosponsored by the Information Technology and Organizations Program of the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the workshop was twofold: first, to increase awareness among the artificial intelligence (AI) community of opportunities presented by the National Information Infrastructure (NII) activities, in particular, the Information Infrastructure and Technology Applications (IITA) component of the High Performance Computing and Communications Program; and second, to identify key contributions of research in AI to the NII and IITA.