Today’s virtual assistants and chatbots typically follow simple rules (if this then that) in order to respond to questions. Recent advances in statistical machine learning can add some flexibility by, for example, letting a machine find an answer to a question by searching through large amounts of text. However, both of these approaches can fall victim to the vast complexity and ambiguity of meaning often encoded in language.
Machines watch not what you say, but how you say things. NLP (Natural Language Processing) is not just about words but about context. Google used to match keywords and offer list of links. But now it can offer context related things.
One reason that understanding language is so difficult for computers is that words often have meanings based on contetxt, and the appearance of letters and other words.
Without language understanding, the impact of AI will be different. Of course we’ll have very powerful AlphaGos and similar apps, but the relationship with AI will be much worse and less friendly.