modified on 12/10/14


I ask why humans are smarter than other primates, and I hypothesize that an important part of the answer lies in the Inner Language Hypothesis, a prerequisite to what I call the Strong Story Hypothesis, which holds that story telling and understanding have a central role in human intelligence. Next, I introduce the Directed Perception Hypothesis, which holds that we derive much of our common sense, including the common sense required in story understanding, by deploying our perceptual apparatus on real and imagined events. Both the Strong Story Hypothesis and the Directed Perception Hypothesis become more valuable in light of our social nature, an idea captured in the Social Animal Hypothesis. Then, after discussing methodology, I describe the representations and methods embodied in Genesis, a story-understanding system that analyzes stories ranging from pre ́cis of Shakespeare’s plots to descriptions of conflicts in cyberspace. Genesis works with short story summaries, provided in English, together with low-level common-sense rules and higher-level concept patterns, likewise expressed in English. Using only a small collection of common-sense rules and concept patterns, Genesis demonstrates several story-understanding capabilities, such as determining that both Macbeth and the 2007 Russia-Estonia Cyberwar involve revenge, even though neither the word revenge nor any of its synonyms are mentioned.