Neuro-symbolic approaches in artificial intelligence National Science Review

The Difference Between Symbolic AI and Connectionist AI by Nora Winkens CodeX

symbolic ai example

In contrast, LLMs have been able to scale with the availability of data and compute resources. But so far, Cyc has enabled several successful applications and has brought important lessons for the AI community. ML may focus on specific elements of a problem where explainability doesn’t matter, whereas symbolic AI will arrive at decisions using a transparent and readily understandable pathway. The hybrid approach to AI will only become increasingly prevalent as the years go by. These issues are typical of “connectionist” neural networks, which depend on notions of the human brain’s operation. The rise of hybrid AI tackles many significant and legitimate concerns.


Building a symbolic AI system requires a human expert to manually encode the knowledge and rules into the system, which can be time-consuming and costly. Additionally, symbolic AI may struggle with handling uncertainty and dealing with incomplete or ambiguous information. Intelligent machines should support and aid scientists during the whole research life cycle and assist in recognizing inconsistencies, proposing ways to resolve the inconsistencies, and generate new hypotheses. At birth, the newborn possesses limited innate knowledge about our world. A newborn does not know what a car is, what a tree is, or what happens if you freeze water.

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As a result, LLMs will learn to imitate human language without being able to do robust common-sense reasoning about what they are saying. In the 1960s and 1970s, technological advances inspired researchers to investigate the relationship between machines and nature. They believed that symbolic techniques would eventually result in an intelligent machine, which was viewed as their discipline’s long-term objective. The requirements of symbolic AI are that someone — or several someones — needs to be able to specify all the rules necessary to solve the problem. This isn’t always possible, and even when it is, the result might be too verbose to be practical.

symbolic ai example

As a result, our approach works to enable active and transparent flow control of these generative processes. Symbolic reasoning uses formal languages and logical rules to represent knowledge, enabling tasks such as planning, problem-solving, and understanding causal relationships. While symbolic reasoning systems excel in tasks requiring explicit reasoning, they fall short in tasks demanding pattern recognition or generalization, like image recognition or natural language processing.

Computer Science

Each Expression has its own forward method that needs to be overridden. It is called by the __call__ method, which is inherited from the Expression base class. The __call__ method evaluates an expression and returns the result from the implemented forward method. This design pattern evaluates expressions in a lazy manner, meaning the expression is only evaluated when its result is needed. It is an essential feature that allows us to chain complex expressions together. Numerous helpful expressions can be imported from the symai.components file.

As this was going to press I discovered that Jürgen Schmidhuber’s AI company NNAISENSE revolves around a rich mix of symbols and deep learning. Contrasting to Symbolic AI, sub-symbolic systems do not require rules or symbolic representations as inputs. Instead, sub-symbolic programs can learn implicit data representations on their own. Machine learning and deep learning techniques are all examples of sub-symbolic AI models. Thomas Hobbes, a British philosopher, famously said that thinking is nothing more than symbol manipulation, and our ability to reason is essentially our mind computing that symbol manipulation. René Descartes also compared our thought process to symbolic representations.

In figure 1 is an example of relations from the concept “person.” The Cyc knowledge base has two major distinction related to sets. A thing that represents a subset of a set “generalizes” it and its relation predicate is genls. Just like deep learning was waiting for data and computing to catch up with its ideas, so has symbolic AI been waiting for neural networks to mature.

Neuro-symbolic AI has a long history; however, it remained a rather niche topic until recently, when landmark advances in machine learning—prompted by deep learning—caused a significant rise in interest and research activity in combining neural and symbolic methods. In this overview, we provide a rough guide to key research directions, and literature pointers for anybody interested in learning more about the field. Since ancient times, humans have been obsessed with creating thinking machines. As a result, numerous researchers have focused on creating intelligent machines throughout history. For example, researchers predicted that deep neural networks would eventually be used for autonomous image recognition and natural language processing as early as the 1980s.

Cyc has attempted to capture useful common-sense knowledge and has “micro-theories” to handle particular kinds of domain-specific reasoning. Programs were themselves data structures that other programs could operate on, allowing the easy definition of higher-level languages. On the other hand, “current LLM-based chatbots aren’t so much understanding and inferring as remembering and espousing,” the scientists write. “They do astoundingly well at some things, but there is room for improvement in most of the 16 capabilities” listed in the paper.

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Holzenberger’s team and others have been working on models to interpret legal texts in natural language to feed into a symbolic logic model. Some of the prime candidates for introducing hybrid AI are business problems where there isn’t enough data to train a large neural network, or where traditional machine learning can’t handle all the edge cases on its own. Hybrid AI can also help where a neural network approach would risk discrimination or or problems due to lack of transparency, or would be prone to overfitting. The use of symbolic reasoning, knowledge and semantic understanding will produce far more accurate results than thought possible, in addition to creating a more effective and efficient AI environment.

Publishers can successfully process, categorize and tag more than 1.5 million news articles a day when using’s symbolic technology. This makes it significantly easier to identify keywords and topics that readers are most interested in, at scale. Data-centric products can also be built out to create a more engaging and personalized user experience. For example, the insurance industry manages a lot of unstructured linguistic data from a variety of formats. With’s symbolic AI technology, organizations can easily extract key information from within these documents to facilitate policy reviews and risk assessments.

  • Next, the prospect may ask about ticket availability, whether the ticket has any specific categories (single, couple, adult, senior) or ticket classes (front row, standing area, VIP lounge) – which will also be considered when developing the knowledge graph.
  • An example of such a computer program is the neuro-symbolic concept learner (NS-CL), created at the MIT-IBM lab by a team led by Josh Tenenbaum, a professor at MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines.
  • Kahneman describes human thinking as having two components, System 1 and System 2.
  • The ideal, obviously, is to choose assumptions that allow a system to learn flexibly and produce accurate decisions about their inputs.

Similarly, they say that “[Marcus] broadly assumes symbolic reasoning is all-or-nothing — since DALL-E doesn’t have symbols and logical rules underlying its operations, it isn’t actually reasoning with symbols,” when I again never said any such thing. A robot using a complex knowledge base like Cyc or First Order Logic would be able to reason about many different aspects of the world. It could reason from first principles, reason about its goals, reason about interactions between its actions in the world and plan appropriately. Examples of working robots doing these things do exist in research labs. The Flakey robot of Stanford Research Institute has demonstrated some advanced reasoning capabilities. Of course, nothing we have discussed here addresses the issue of learning about the world or how that information is brought into the robot, but  the mechanism to reason with knowledge is well understood.

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To extract knowledge, data scientists have to deal with large and complex datasets and work with data coming from diverse scientific areas. Artificial Intelligence (AI), i.e., the scientific discipline that studies how machines and algorithms can exhibit intelligent behavior, has similar aims and already plays a significant role in Data Science. Intelligent machines can help to collect, store, search, process and reason over both data and knowledge. For a long time, a dominant approach to AI was based on symbolic representations and treating “intelligence” or intelligent behavior primarily as symbol manipulation. In a physical symbol system [46], entities called symbols (or tokens) are physical patterns that stand for, or denote, information from the external environment. Symbols can be combined to form complex symbol structures, and symbols can be manipulated by processes.

symbolic ai example

In this blog, we will delve into the depths of ChatGPT’s training data, exploring its sources and the massive scale on which it was collected. We will now demonstrate how we define our Symbolic API, which is based on object-oriented and compositional design patterns. The Symbol class serves as the base class functional operations, and in the context of symbolic programming (fully resolved expressions), we refer to it as a terminal symbol.

What is the difference between analytical AI and generative AI?

For example, generative AI can be used to create new educational materials (lesson plans, worksheets, graphic organizers). Analytical AI might be used to identify and assess patterns or relationships in data, such as test results.

The user uploads a PDF document to our platform which describes the plan for running a clinical trial, called the clinical trial protocol. A machine learning model is able to identify key attributes of the trial such as its location, duration, number of subjects, and some statistical parameters. The output of the machine learning model is then fed into a manually designed risk model which translates these parameters into a risk value which is then displayed to the user as a traffic light indicating high, medium or low risk. Bringing together the best of hybrid AI and machine learning (ML) models is the best way to unlock the full value of unstructured language data – and that too in a speedy, accurate and scalable way which most businesses demand today. But symbolic AI starts to break when you must deal with the messiness of the world. For instance, consider computer vision, the science of enabling computers to make sense of the content of images and video.

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symbolic ai example

What is symbolic AI chatbot?

One of the many uses of symbolic artificial intelligence is with Natural Language Processing for conversational chatbots. With this approach, also called “deterministic”, the idea is to teach the machine how to understand languages in the same way as we, humans, have learned how to read and how to write.