Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Artificial intelligence: Machines that reason

Subjects

Nature 538, 471–476 (2016)

Credit: EDULEITE/E+/GETTY

Complex reasoning is a hallmark of natural intelligence, as is learning from experience. Artificial neural networks — biologically inspired computational models — also learn from examples and excel at pattern recognition tasks, such as object and speech recognition. However, they cannot handle complex reasoning tasks that require memory to be solved.

Alex Graves, Greg Wayne and co-workers at Google DeepMind have now developed a neural network with read–write access to external memory, called a differentiable neural computer (DNC). The DNC's two modules — the memory and the neural network that controls it — interact like a digital computer's RAM and CPU, but do not need to be programmed. The system learns through exposure to examples to provide highly accurate responses to questions that require deductive reasoning (for example, “Sheep are afraid of wolves. Gertrude is a sheep. What is Gertrude afraid of?”), to traverse a novel network (for example, the London Underground map), and to carry out logical planning tasks.

This work represents a major leap forward in showing how symbolic reasoning can arise from an entirely non-symbolic system that learns through experience.

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kousta, S. Artificial intelligence: Machines that reason. Nat Hum Behav 1, 0032 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-016-0032

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing