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Today, if you ask the Google search engine on your desktop a question like “How big is the Milky Way,” you’ll no longer just get a list of links where you could find the answer — you’ll get the answer: “100,000 light years.”

While this question/answer tech may seem simple enough, it’s actually a complex development rooted in Google’s powerful deep neural networks. These networks are a form of artificial intelligence that aims to mimic how human brains work, relating together bits of information to comprehend data and predict patterns.

Google’s new search feature’s deep neural network uses sentence compression algorithms to extract relevant information from big bulks of text. Essentially, the system learned how to answer questions by repeatedly watching humans do it — more specifically, 100 PhD linguists from across the world — a process called supervised learning. After training, the system could take a large amount of data and identify the short snippet from it that answered the question at hand.

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