NLP: A Primer or Promotion?

April 19, 2019

The role of natural language processing has expanded greatly in recent years. For anyone who needs to get up to speed on this important technology, take note of this resource: IBM Developer shares “A Beginner’s Guide to Natural Language Processing.” Writer M. Tim Jones introduces his topic:

“In this article, we’ll examine natural language processing (NLP) and how it can help us to converse more naturally with computers.

Now the promotional part:

NLP is one of the most important subfields of machine learning for a variety of reasons. Natural language is the most natural interface between a user and a machine. In the ideal case, this involves speech recognition and voice generation. Even Alan Turing recognized this in his “intelligence” article, in which he defined the “Turing test” as a way to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior through a natural language conversation. …

We noted this statement:

“One of the key benefits of NLP is the massive amount of unstructured text data that exists in the world and acts as a driver for natural language processing and understanding. For a machine to process, organize, and understand this text (that was generated primarily for human consumption), we could unlock a large number of useful applications for future machine learning applications and a vast amount of knowledge that could be put to work.”

NLP actually represents several areas of research: speech recognition, natural language understanding, querying, ontology, natural language generation, and speech generation. Jones covers the history of NLP from 1954 to the present, then delves into some current approaches: word encodings, recurrent neural networks, reinforcement learning, and deep learning. The article closes by noting that the use of NLP continues to grow. Jones even points to Watson’s Jeopardy championship as evidence the technology is here to stay. Gee, I wonder why a more recent Watson success story wasn’t cited? And how about those IBM financials? Watson, what’s up?

Cynthia Murrell, April 19, 2019


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