Science: Ruly English

Computers have giant memories, but are exasperatingly literal-minded. The U.S. Patent Office encountered this problem in an acute form when it began planning a computer designed to extract from its memory all earlier mentions of a patent-seeking idea. Patents are described in ordinary English, and ordinary English proved too imprecise for literal-minded computers. The word glass, for instance, means a material and a long list of things made out of that material. It also means additional things (water glasses and eyeglasses made of plastic) that have nothing to do with glass. Such things confuse computers.

To leap this communication...

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