The cover story in the January issue of Wired is devoted to research at the forefront of artificial intelligence. “Today’s AI doesn’t try to re-create the brain,” Wired writes. “Instead, it uses machine learning, massive data sets, sophisticated sensors, and clever algorithms to master discrete tasks.”

The piece features transportation algorithms developed by Princeton researchers to analyze Norfolk Southern’s rail operations. The Princeton Locomotive and Shop Management System (Plasma for short) “tracks thousands of variables, predicting the impact of changes in fleet size, maintenance policies, transit time, and other factors on real-world operations.”

Wired says that the key breakthrough was making the model “mimic the complex behavior of the company’s dispatch center in Atlanta.”

Princeton’s Warren Powell ’77, a professor of operations research and financial engineering at Princeton, tells Wired: “Think of the dispatch center as one big, collective brain. How do you get a computer to behave like that?”

Read the full piece here.

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