New computer language makes computers think about the consequences

Researchers at the US, along with teams from the UK, France, Germany and Japan have come up with a new programming language which allows a computer to think through the consequences of an action before executing it.

Developed the international team led by scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have come up with what they call a ‘process specification language software’ which is more mundanely known as ISO 18629.

A traditional programming language consists of a series of instructions which, as any programmer faced with buggy code knows, will be followed slavishly whether the consequences are those intended or not.

The ISO 18629 language is different. Built around developments in artificial intelligence it allows the computer to analyse an instruction and make decisions based on its ‘meaning’ and ‘context’.

The development team have introduced around 300 concepts to the language including ideas such as ‘duration’ and ‘sequence’.

With these concepts the machine is able – albeit in a primitive fashion – to deduce the ‘meaning’ of a word within a particular context and act upon it in the way that humans do instinctively.

The NIST gives as an example the way a robot might interpret subtle differences in commands. Someone who hears the instruction ‘paint it, before shipping it’ will understand that painting and drying must be completed prior to the next action, shipping. On the other hand the command ‘turn on the coolant, before milling’ will imply that turning on the coolant, continues after the milling starts. In both cases the preposition ‘before’ is used slightly differently.

The ISO 18629 language is envisaged for use particularly in manufacturing processes particularly in the areas of process planning, validation, production scheduling and control information for guiding manufacturing processes. The ISO is currently two thirds of the way through the approval procedures. Once completed, software developers are expected to create a range of manufacturing systems built around the standard.

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