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Robots challenged to pass Todai examination

by Tatsuya Tsujimura

Kyodo

If robots with artificial intelligence prove they can outperform humans, will most jobs currently undertaken by people be done by robots instead?

To find out the answer, Noriko Arai, 51, a mathematician at the National Institute of Informatics, launched the “Can a Robot Get into the University of Tokyo?” project in 2011.

“Unless we find that out, we won’t be able to design public policies on any of the subjects — education, the economy, labor or social welfare,” she said.

Under the Todai Robot Project, as it is called for short, a team led by Arai aims to develop computer programs that will be smart enough to pass most competitive entrance examinations for the University of Tokyo, which is also known as Todai, by 2021.

The professor at the institute’s information and society research division says that each time people lose their jobs due to advances in artificial intelligence technologies, they will have to seek education and vocational training in completely new fields.

“If society as a whole can see a possible change coming in the future, we can get prepared now,” she said.

As one example, Arai predicted that English education, which the government has strengthened in recent years, may not be necessary in the future if a portable simultaneous translation device is created.

Arai said that if machines cannot do any of the tasks that are currently done by humans, “we need to clarify what is missing and move to develop the technology.”

A robot took a mock test for the country’s standardized university entrance examination last year, but it failed to meet the research team’s goal of getting a 50 percent score.

But the results indicated that the robot has an 80 percent or higher probability of passing exams for 404 universities across the country and the deviation score for a University of Tokyo math test also came to 60, according to Arai.

“We are satisfied with the result for the first test,” Arai said.

Her team currently receives cooperation from professors at universities nationwide, publishers and other education-related firms.

The team also invites people abroad to take part in the project’s contests and presentations.

“They may feel (robots) are improving and gradually approaching the capacity of human beings,” Arai said.