Expert Systems Quietly Add Big Value

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Expert Systems Quietly Add Big Value

There is now a Web-based application called EasyDiagnosis that allows patients to enter their symptoms and quickly find out the likelihood that they have any given medical condition.

This reverses the century-old practice of medicine, in which a physician would first study every disease in medical school, and then use that knowledge to diagnose which one matched each patient’s symptoms. Instead, EasyDiagnosis simply asks: Given these symptoms, what is the most likely diagnosis?

This is just one example of what are known as expert systems, which are computer systems that either do or support the work of a human expert. The expert applications being used today are so numerous that we obviously can’t list them all, but here are a few examples:

Watching Whales: This combines artificial intelligence, marine biology, and Web technology to identify different types of whales.

Grad Advisor: This screening tool categorizes students’ applications for graduate school.

Spa Advisor: This application diagnoses malfunctions of hot tubs and suggests how to fix them based on the problems the owner enters.

Stock Market Decisions: There are literally hundreds of expert systems that will give buy, sell, and hold advice based on price, volume, momentum, or any other parameters the user wishes to consider.

PAGES — an acronym for Petroleum Advisor for the Geochemical and Environmental Sciences: This program helps to find oil by interpreting the analysis of results from a test drilling.
Douglas Fir Cone and Seed Insects System: This application helps orchard managers, foresters, and researchers to identify insects that can harm their trees.

Shyster: Yes, there is a program to provide lawyers with advice in case law, and it’s called Shyster.

The basic expert system consists of a shell, which is the module that actually processes the information entered by a user. It then relates the information to the concepts contained in the knowledge base, and provides output in the form of a piece of advice, such as: Do or don’t drill for oil here.

The knowledge base is a specialized database that contains all the relevant information needed to make a decision. Thus, an expert system shell provides a mechanism for relating what the user does know to what he does not know — but which is contained in the knowledge base.

Artificial intelligence research has led to the development of languages and tools that allow programs to be written in a way that is much closer to human thought processes...

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