Hugo de Garis – Singularity Skepticism (Produced by Adam Ford)

This is Hugo de Garis talking about why people tend to react with a great deal of skepticism.  To address the skeptics, de Garis explains Moore’s Law and goes into it’s many implications.  Hugo de Garis makes a statement toward the end about how people will begin to come around when they begin to see their household electronics getting smarter and smarter.


Runtime: 12:31


This video can also be found here and here.

Video Info:

Published on Jul 31, 2012

Hugo de Garis speaks about why people are skeptical about the possibility of machine intelligence, and also reasons for believing machine intelligence is possible, and quite probably will be an issue that we will need to face in the coming decades.

If the brain guys can copy how the brain functions closely enough…we will arrive at a machine based on neuroscience ideas and that machine will be intelligent and conscious

 

 

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Peter Voss Interview on Artificial General Intelligence

This is an interview with Peter Voss of Optimal talking about artificial general intelligence.  One of the things Voss talks about is the skepticism which is a common reaction when talking about creating strong AI and why (as Tony Robbins always says) the past does not equal the future.  He also talks about why he thinks that Ray Kurzweil’s predictions that AGI won’t be achieved for another 20 is wrong – (and I gotta say, he makes a good point).  If you are interested in artificial intelligence or ethics in technology then you’ll want to watch this one…  

And don’t worry, the line drawing effect at the beginning of the video only lasts a minute.


Runtime: 39:55


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W_vtlSjNk0

Video Info:

Published on Jan 8, 2013

Peter Voss is the founder and CEO of Adaptive A.I. Inc, an R&D company developing a high-level general intelligence (AGI) engine. He is also founder and CTO of Smart Action Company LLC, which builds and supplies AGI-based virtual contact-center agents — intelligent, automated phone operators.

Peter started his career as an entrepreneur, inventor, engineer and scientist at age 16. After several years of experience in electronics engineering, at age 25 he started a company to provide advanced custom hardware and software solutions. Seven years later the company employed several hundred people and was successfully listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

After selling his interest in the company in 1993, he worked on a broad range of disciplines — cognitive science, philosophy and theory of knowledge, psychology, intelligence and learning theory, and computer science — which served as the foundation for achieving new breakthroughs in artificial general intelligence. In 2001 he started Adaptive AI Inc., and last year founded Smart Action Company as its commercialization division.

Peter considers himself a free-minds-and-markets Extropian, and often writes and presents on philosophical topics including rational ethics, freewill and artificial minds. He is also deeply involved with futurism and life-extension.


http://www.optimal.org/peter/peter.htm

My main occupation is research in high-level, general (domain independent, autonomous) Artificial Intelligence — “Adaptive A.I. Inc.”

I believe that integrating insights from the following areas of cognitive science are crucial for rapid progress in this field:

Philosophy/ epistemology – understanding the true nature of knowledge
Cognitive psychology (incl. developmental & psychometric) for analysis of cognition – and especially – general conceptual intelligence.
Computer science – self-modifying systems, combining new connectionist pattern manipulation techniques with ‘traditional’ AI engineering.
Anyone who shares my passion – and/ or concerns – for this field is welcome to contact me for brainstorming and possible collaboration.

My other big passion is for exploring what I call Optimal Living: Maximizing both the quantity & quality of life. I see personal responsibility and optimizing knowledge acquisition as key. Specific interests include:

Rationality, as a means for knowledge. I’m largely sympathetic to the philosophy of Objectivism, and have done quite a bit of work on developing a rational approach to (personal & social) ethics.
Health (quality): physical, financial, cognitive, and emotional (passions, meaningful relationships, appreciation of art, etc.). Psychology: IQ & EQ.
Longevity (quantity): general research, CRON (calorie restriction), cryonics
Environment: economic, social, political systems conducive to Optimal Living.
These interests logically lead to an interest in Futurism , in technology for improving life – overcoming limits to personal growth & improvement. The transhumanist philosophy of Extropianism best embodies this quest. Specific technologies that seem to hold most promise include AI, Nanotechnology, & various health & longevity approaches mentioned above.

I always enjoy meeting new people to explore ideas, and to have my views critiqued. To this end I am involved in a number of discussion groups and salons (e.g. ‘Kifune’ futurist dinner/discussion group). Along the way I’m trying to develop and learn the complex art of constructive dialog.

Interview done at SENS party LA 20th Dec 2012.

 

 

Sean O’Heigeartaigh – Interview at Oxford Future of Humanity Institute (on Artificial Intelligence)

Here is a video interview with Sean O’Heigeartaigh.  O’Heigeartaigh speaks on the ethics of artificial intelligence, the technological singularity, augmented reality… he covers a lot of ground.  The video is called Sean O’Heigeartaigh – Interview at Oxford Future of Humanity Institute and it’s worth the watch.


 

Runtime: 47:01


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY90WIIrrlo 

Video Info:

Published on Jan 24, 2013

Dr Sean O hEigeartaigh
James Martin Academic Project Manager with the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology

Seán has a background in genetics, having recently finished his phD in molecular evolution in Trinity College Dublin where he focused on programmed ribosomal frameshifting and comparative genomic approaches to improve genome annotation. He is also the cofounder of a successful voluntary arts organisation in Ireland that now runs popular monthly events and an annual outdoor festival.

The Future of Humanity Institute is the leading research centre looking at big-picture questions for human civilization. The last few centuries have seen tremendous change, and this century might transform the human condition in even more fundamental ways. Using the tools of mathematics, philosophy, and science, we explore the risks and opportunities that will arise from technological change, weigh ethical dilemmas, and evaluate global priorities. Our goal is to clarify the choices that will shape humanity’s long-term future.

the Future of Humanity Institute: http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/

This short YouTube video on neurobiotics (called A Simulated Mouse Brain in a Virtual Mouse Body) talks about building a ‘virtual mouse’ by putting a computer model of a mouse brain in a virtual mouse body.  How cool is science?


 

Runtime: 2:28


This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldXEuUVkDuw

Video Info:

Published on Feb 23, 2015

Neurorobotics engineers from the Human Brain Project (HBP) have recently taken the first steps towards building a “virtual mouse” by placing a simplified computer model of the mouse brain into a virtual mouse body. This new kind of tool will be made available to scientists, both HBP and worldwide. Read more:https://www.humanbrainproject.eu/-/a-…

Useful Links:

Human Brain Project: http://www.humanbrainproject.eu
NEST simulator software for spiking neural network models: http://nest-simulator.org/
Jülich Press Release 2013, Largest neuronalnetwork simulation using NEST : http://bit.ly/173mZ5j

Open Source Data Sets:
Allen Institute for Brain Science: http://www.brain-map.org
Bioinformatics Research Network (BIRN): http://www.birncommunity.org

The Behaim Globe:
Germanisches National Museum, http://www.gnm.de/
Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation, TU Wien, http://www.geo.tuwien.ac.at

 

FET Flagships: Definition and Examples from the Digital Agenda for Europe

This webpage (found at the Digital Agenda for Europe website) explains FET Flagships and two top flagship topics.  They are multidisciplinary approaches to unlocking technologies which have the potential to radically change the future of humanity.  The two flagship topics covered (in embedded videos) are Graphene and the Human Brain Project.


 

FET Flagships

The Future & Emerging Technologies (“FET”) Flagships are visionary, large-scale, science-driven research initiatives which tackle scientific and technological challenges across scientific disciplines.

The Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Flagships were developed over a two-and-a-half year preparatory phase. They will have a transformational impact on science, technology and society overall. They foster coordinated efforts between the EU and its Member States’ national and regional programmes. Highly ambitious, they rely on cooperation among a range of disciplines, communities and programmes, requiring sustained support up to 10 years.

Two projects were selected as winners among the pilot flagship topics:
Graphene and the
Human Brain Project.

The European Commission published in September 2014 the FET Flagship Staff Working document, announcing the implementation model for the Flagships in H2020. Read the overview and presentation.

Graphene

Graphene Logo

Graphene investigates and exploits the unique properties of a revolutionary carbon-based material. It possesses an extraordinary combination of physical and technical properties:  it is the thinnest material, it conducts electricity,  it is stronger than steele and entails unique optical properties.

To better understand Graphene, check out the following:

  • New Graphene video:How Chalmers University manufactures scalable and high-performing solid Graphene samples, the raw material used by the over 100 research groups within the Graphene Flagship.
  • Follow @GrapheneCA on Twitter
  • Programme launch event (Oct2013 – Göteborg (SE))

The Human Brain Project

The Human Brain Project logo

Understanding the human brain is one of the greatest challenges facing 21st century science. Using a unique simulation-based approach, the Human Brain Project aims to provide researchers worldwide with a tool to understand how the human brain really works. If we rise to the challenge, this initiative will revolutionise the future of neuroscience, medicine, and computing.

To better understand HPB, several resources are available:

  • The Human Brain Project Youtube Video Channel – check out video guides on various aspects of the project: Neuromorphic Computing, Future Medicin, Future Neuroscience , Future Computing, Ethics & Society, Neuroinformatics, Medical Informatics Platforms, High Performance Computing, Brain Stimulation Platform, Neurobotics, Mathematical and Theoretical Foundations of Brain Research;
  • Follow @HumanBrainProj on Twitter;
  • Programme launch event (Oct2013 – Lausanne (CH))

The FLAG-ERA ERA-NET

FLAG-ERA logo

The ERA-NET, called FLAG-ERA, gathers ministries and most funding organisations in Europe, participating either directly or as associated members, with the goal of supporting the FET Flagship initiatives ‘Graphene’ and ‘The Human Brain Project’ and more generally the FET Flagship concept.

FLAG-ERA offers a platform to coordinate a wide range of sources of funding towards the realization of the very ambitious research goals of the two Flagship initiatives. The funding organisation will coordinate their funding framework conditions, adapt their thematic programs and elaborate new joint support mechanisms according to the identified needs. In particular, they can launch transnational calls enabling researchers from different countries to propose joint contributions to the Flagships.

FLAG-ERA also offers support to the four non-selected “runner-ups” Flagship pilots to progress towards their goals with adapted means.

  • FuturICT – understanding and managing complex, global, socially interactive systems, with a focus on sustainability and resilience.
  • Guardian Angels – technologies for extremely energy-efficient, smart, electronic personal companions that will assist humans from infancy to old age.
  • IT Future of Medicine – a data-driven, individualised medicine of the future, based on the molecular, physiological, and anatomical data from individual patients.
  • RoboCom – Robot Companions for Citizens.

FET Flagship background

A call was published in July 2010, and six pilot projects were chosen for the so-called preparatory actions. At the end of 2012, 25 world-renowned experts evaluated the pilots’ work and two winning projects were announced by Vice-President Neelie Kroes on 28th January 2013.


This article can also be found here.

The first video can also be found here.

The second video can also be found here.

Video Info:

Video 1:

Published on Jan 28, 2013

“Graphene” will investigate and exploit the unique properties of a revolutionary carbon-based material. Graphene is an extraordinary combination of physical and chemical properties: it is the thinnest material, it conducts electricity much better than copper, it is 100-300 times stronger than steel and it has unique optical properties. The use of graphene was made possible by European scientists in 2004, and the substance is set to become the wonder material of the 21st century, as plastics were to the 20th century, including by replacing silicon in ICT products.

Video 2:

Published on Jan 28, 2013

The “Human Brain Project” will create the world’s largest experimental facility for developing the most detailed model of the brain, for studying how the human brain works and ultimately to develop personalised treatment of neurological and related diseases. This research lays the scientific and technical foundations for medical progress that has the potential to will dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of Europeans.

 

NASA’s Warp Drive Project

Alright, this is not exactly a transhumanist/singularity article, but it’s just plain cool and I knew I needed to post it on DoG (great acronym, eh?).  The article is from the Before It’s News website and has the rather lengthy title of NASA’s Warp Drive Project: “Speeds” That Could Take a Spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in Two Weeks Even Though the System is 4.3 Light-Years Away.  Yikes!  I guess I don’t need to sum this one up for you…


 

NASA’s Warp Drive Project: “Speeds” That Could Take a Spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in Two Weeks Even Though the System is 4.3 Light-Years Away

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 15:57

NASA’s Warp Drive Project: “Speeds” that Could  Take a Spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in Two Weeks — Even Though the System is 4.3 Light-Years Away.

A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive.

His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein’s law of relativity.
Runtime: 7:41
The above image of a Vulcan command ship features a warp engine similar to an Alcubierre Drive. Image courtesy CBS.
The Alcubierre Drive
The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,”
Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft.
Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre’s notion a “passport to the universe.” It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations.
 Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction — passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration.
White speculates that such a drive could result in “speeds” that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.
In terms of the engine’s mechanics, a spheroid object would be placed between two regions of space-time (one expanding and one contracting).
A “warp bubble” would then be generated that moves space-time around the object, effectively repositioning it — the end result being faster-than-light travel without the spheroid (or spacecraft) having to move with respect to its local frame of reference.
“Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed,”
 ”However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy.”
“However,” said White, “based on the analysis I did the last 18 months, there may be hope.” The key, says White, may be in altering the geometry of the warp drive itself.
A new design
“My early results suggested I had discovered something that was in the math all along,” he recalled. “I suddenly realized that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger — like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape — and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required — perhaps making the idea plausible.”
White had adjusted the shape of Alcubierre’s ring which surrounded the spheroid from something that was a flat halo to something that was thicker and curvier.
He presented the results of his Alcubierre Drive rethink a year later at the 100 Year Starship conference in Atlanta where he highlighted his new optimization approaches — a new design that could significantly reduce the amount of exotic matter required.
 And in fact, White says that the warp drive could be powered by a mass that’s even less than that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.
“We’re utilizing a modified Michelson-Morley interferometer — that allows us to measure microscopic perturbations in space time,” he said. “In our case,
we’re attempting to make one of the legs of the interferometer appear to be a different length when we energize our test devices.” White and his colleagues are trying to simulate the tweaked Alcubierre drive in miniature by using lasers to perturb space-time by one part in 10 million.
Of course, the interferometer isn’t something that NASA would bolt onto a spaceship. Rather, it’s part of a larger scientific pursuit.
“Our initial test device is implementing a ring of large potential energy — what we observe as blue shifted relative to the lab frame — by utilizing a ring of ceramic capacitors that are charged to tens of thousands of volts,”
 ”We will increase the fidelity of our test devices and continue to enhance the sensitivity of the warp field interferometer — eventually using devices to directly generate negative vacuum energy.”
He points out that Casimir cavities, physical forces that arise from a quantized field, may represent a viable approach.
And it’s through these experiments, hopes White, that NASA can go from the theoretical to the practical.
“This loophole in general relativity would allow us to go places really fast as measured by both Earth observers, and observers on the ship — trips measured in weeks or months as opposed to decades and centuries,” he said.
io9.com
Top image: CBS Studios Inc. Spearpoint, zamandayolculuk.com, Harold White, Flickriver.
Read more:

 

This article can also be found here.

Video Info:

Published on May 15, 2013

Results of his Alcubierre Drive rethink:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/cas…
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/sci…
http://www.newscientist.com/article/m…
http://iopscience.iop.org/0264-9381/1…
http://100yss.org/
http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-…

Icarus Interstellar
http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/tea…

Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre’s notion a “passport to the universe.” It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations. Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction — passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration.

Scientists speculate that such a drive could result in “speeds” that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.

i09.com

Read more here:
http://io9.com/5963263/how-nasa-will-…

The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity:
http://iopscience.iop.org/0264-9381/1…

New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/23/sci…

100 Year Starship project
http://100yss.org/

Results of his Alcubierre Drive rethink:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/cas…

Music credit: mik300z https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DRRi…
Vangelis – Echoes – length 7:51
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DRRi…

Graphene science | Mikael Fogelström | TEDxGöteborg

This is another TEDx talk (I’m on another TED kick, what can I say…) called Graphene science | Mikael Fogelström | TEDxGöteborg.  I respect Mikael Fogelström for delivering this speech.  Mikael was obviously struggling with stage fright, but he didn’t stop and what’s more important is that it was actually still a great presentation.  


Runtime: 19:59

This video can also be found here.


Video Info:

Published on Jan 12, 2014

Graphene. These just one-atom thick carbon structures is without doubt the most buzzed-about material in the world of science today. Kostya Novoselov and André Geim was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for their work on the matter and right now research teams all over the world are competing to turn knowledge into applications. The possibilities are endless. Mikael Fogelström, Professor at Chalmers, coordinates two large national research projects on graphene science. “We are still in the beginning”, he says.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

Making Small Stuff Do Big Things: TEDxHouston 2011 – Wade Adams – Nanotechnology and Energy

This is Wade Adams delivering a TEDx presentation called TEDxHouston 2011 – Wade Adams – Nanotechnology and Energy.  I remember reading something at the MIT News website a few years ago about gold nanorods using gamma rays to destroy cancer cells (ok, just looked it up – I was close… kinda).  Let me just say that nanotech is finally becoming a reality.  Let’s just all agree not to make gray goo, yeah?


 

Runtime: 25:20

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GFst2IQBEM


Video Info:

Uploaded on Aug 6, 2011

Dr. Wade Adams is the Director of the Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University. The Institute is devoted to the development of new innovations on the nanometer scale. Some of the institute’s current thrusts include research in carbon nanotubes, medical applications of nanoparticles, nanoporous membranes, molecular computing, and nanoshell diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Wade was appointed a senior scientist (ST) in the Materials Directorate of the Wright Laboratory in 1995. Prior to that he was a research leader and in-house research scientist in the directorate. For the past 36 years he has conducted research in polymer physics, concentrating on structure-property relations in high-performance organic materials. He is internationally known for his research in high-performance rigid-rod polymer fibers, X-ray scattering studies of fibers and liquid crystalline films, polymer dispersed liquid crystals, and theoretical studies of ultimate polymer properties.

Neuromorphic Chips: MIT Technology Review

This is another article by Robert D. Hof from the MIT Technology Review website and is about how neuromorphic computer chips (modeled on the biological brains) could make computers “aware” of what is going on around them.  This is the kind of technology that we are going to see everywhere.  The practical applications are endless.

Neuromorphic Chips

Microprocessors configured more like brains than traditional chips could soon make computers far more astute about what’s going on around them.

Breakthrough

An alternative design for computer chips that will enhance ­artificial intelligence.

Why It Matters

Traditional chips are reaching fundamental performance limits.

Key Players

  • Qualcomm
  • IBM
  • HRL Laboratories
  • Human Brain Project

A pug-size robot named pioneer slowly rolls up to the Captain America action figure on the carpet. They’re facing off inside a rough model of a child’s bedroom that the wireless-chip maker Qualcomm has set up in a trailer. The robot pauses, almost as if it is evaluating the situation, and then corrals the figure with a snowplow-like implement mounted in front, turns around, and pushes it toward three squat pillars representing toy bins. Qualcomm senior engineer Ilwoo Chang sweeps both arms toward the pillar where the toy should be deposited. Pioneer spots that gesture with its camera and dutifully complies. Then it rolls back and spies another action figure, Spider-Man. This time Pioneer beelines for the toy, ignoring a chessboard nearby, and delivers it to the same pillar with no human guidance.

This demonstration at Qualcomm’s headquarters in San Diego looks modest, but it’s a glimpse of the future of computing. The robot is performing tasks that have typically needed powerful, specially programmed computers that use far more electricity. Powered by only a smartphone chip with specialized software, Pioneer can recognize objects it hasn’t seen before, sort them by their similarity to related objects, and navigate the room to deliver them to the right location—not because of laborious programming but merely by being shown once where they should go. The robot can do all that because it is simulating, albeit in a very limited fashion, the way a brain works.

Later this year, Qualcomm will begin to reveal how the technology can be embedded into the silicon chips that power every manner of electronic device. These “neuromorphic” chips—so named because they are modeled on biological brains—will be designed to process sensory data such as images and sound and to respond to changes in that data in ways not specifically programmed. They promise to accelerate decades of fitful progress in artificial intelligence and lead to machines that are able to understand and interact with the world in humanlike ways. Medical sensors and devices could track individuals’ vital signs and response to treatments over time, learning to adjust dosages or even catch problems early. Your smartphone could learn to anticipate what you want next, such as background on someone you’re about to meet or an alert that it’s time to leave for your next meeting. Those self-driving cars Google is experimenting with might not need your help at all, and more adept Roombas wouldn’t get stuck under your couch. “We’re blurring the boundary between silicon and biological systems,” says Qualcomm’s chief technology officer, Matthew Grob.

Qualcomm’s chips won’t become available until next year at the earliest; the company will spend 2014 signing up researchers to try out the technology. But if it delivers, the project—known as the Zeroth program—would be the first large-scale commercial platform for neuromorphic computing. That’s on top of promising efforts at universities and at corporate labs such as IBM Research and HRL Laboratories, which have each developed neuromorphic chips under a $100 million project for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Likewise, the Human Brain Project in Europe is spending roughly 100 million euros on neuromorphic projects, including efforts at Heidelberg University and the University of Manchester. Another group in Germany recently reported using a neuromorphic chip and software modeled on insects’ odor-processing systems to recognize plant species by their flowers.

Today’s computers all use the so-called von Neumann architecture, which shuttles data back and forth between a central processor and memory chips in linear sequences of calculations. That method is great for crunching numbers and executing precisely written programs, but not for processing images or sound and making sense of it all. It’s telling that in 2012, when Google demonstrated artificial-­intelligence software that learned to recognize cats in videos without being told what a cat was, it needed 16,000 processors to pull it off.

Continuing to improve the performance of such processors requires their manufacturers to pack in ever more, ever faster transistors, silicon memory caches, and data pathways, but the sheer heat generated by all those components is limiting how fast chips can be operated, especially in power-stingy mobile devices. That could halt progress toward devices that effectively process images, sound, and other sensory information and then apply it to tasks such as face recognition and robot or vehicle navigation.

No one is more acutely interested in getting around those physical challenges than Qualcomm, maker of wireless chips used in many phones and tablets. Increasingly, users of mobile devices are demanding more from these machines. But today’s personal-assistant services, such as Apple’s Siri and Google Now, are limited because they must call out to the cloud for more powerful computers to answer or anticipate queries. “We’re running up against walls,” says Jeff Gehlhaar, the Qualcomm vice president of technology who heads the Zeroth engineering team.

Neuromorphic chips attempt to model in silicon the massively parallel way the brain processes information as billions of neurons and trillions of synapses respond to sensory inputs such as visual and auditory stimuli. Those neurons also change how they connect with each other in response to changing images, sounds, and the like. That is the process we call learning. The chips, which incorporate brain-inspired models called neural networks, do the same. That’s why Qualcomm’s robot—even though for now it’s merely running software that simulates a neuromorphic chip—can put Spider-Man in the same location as Captain America without having seen Spider-Man before.

Qualcomm could add a “neural processing unit” to mobile-phone chips to handle sensory data and tasks such as image recognition.

Even if neuromorphic chips are nowhere near as capable as the brain, they should be much faster than current computers at processing sensory data and learning from it. Trying to emulate the brain just by using special software on conventional processors—the way Google did in its cat experiment—is way too inefficient to be the basis of machines with still greater intelligence, says Jeff Hawkins, a leading thinker on AI who created the Palm Pilot before cofounding Numenta, a maker of brain-inspired software. “There’s no way you can build it [only] in software,” he says of effective AI. “You have to build this in silicon.”

Neural Channel

As smartphones have taken off, so has Qualcomm, whose market capitalization now tops Intel’s. That’s thanks in part to the hundreds of wireless-­communications patents that Qualcomm shows off on two levels of a seven-story atrium lobby at its San Diego headquarters. Now it’s looking to break new ground again. First in coöperation with Brain Corp., a neuroscience startup it invested in and that is housed at its headquarters, and more recently with its own growing staff, it has been quietly working for the past five years on algorithms to mimic brain functions as well as hardware to execute them. The Zeroth project has initially focused on robotics applications because the way robots can interact with the real world provides broader lessons about how the brain learns—lessons that can then be applied in smartphones and other products. Its name comes from Isaac Asimov’s “Zeroth Law” of robotics: “A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”

The idea of neuromorphic chips dates back decades. Carver Mead, the Caltech professor emeritus who is a legend in integrated-circuit design, coined the term in a 1990 paper, describing how analog chips—those that vary in their output, like real-world phenomena, in contrast to the binary, on-or-off nature of digital chips—could mimic the electrical activity of neurons and synapses in the brain. But he struggled to find ways to reliably build his analog chip designs. Only one arguably neuromorphic processor, a noise suppression chip made by Audience, has sold in the hundreds of millions. The chip, which is based on the human cochlea, has been used in phones from Apple, Samsung, and others.

As a commercial company, Qualcomm has opted for pragmatism over sheer performance in its design. That means the neuromorphic chips it’s developing are still digital chips, which are more predictable and easier to manufacture than analog ones. And instead of modeling the chips as closely as possible on actual brain biology, Qualcomm’s project emulates aspects of the brain’s behavior. For instance, the chips encode and transmit data in a way that mimics the electrical spikes generated in the brain as it responds to sensory information. “Even with this digital representation, we can reproduce a huge range of behaviors we see in biology,” says M. Anthony Lewis, the project engineer for Zeroth.

The chips would fit neatly into the existing business of Qualcomm, which dominates the market for mobile-phone chips but has seen revenue growth slow. Its Snapdragon mobile-phone chips include components such as graphics processing units; Qualcomm could add a “neural processing unit” to the chips to handle sensory data and tasks such as image recognition and robot navigation. And given that Qualcomm has a highly profitable business of licensing technologies to other companies, it would be in a position to sell the rights to use algorithms that run on neuromorphic chips. That could lead to sensor chips for vision, motion control, and other applications.

Cognitive Companion

Matthew Grob was startled, then annoyed, when he heard the theme to Sanford and Son start playing in the middle of a recent meeting. It turns out that on a recent trip to Spain, he had set his smartphone to issue a reminder using the tune as an alarm, and the phone thought it was time to play it again. That’s just one small example of how far our personal devices are from being intelligent. Grob dreams of a future when instead of monkeying with the settings of his misbehaving phone, as he did that day, all he would have to do is bark, “Don’t do that!” Then the phone might learn that it should switch off the alarm when he’s in a new time zone.

Qualcomm is especially interested in the possibility that neuromorphic chips could transform smartphones and other mobile devices into cognitive companions that pay attention to your actions and surroundings and learn your habits over time. “If you and your device can perceive the environment in the same way, your device will be better able to understand your intentions and anticipate your needs,” says Samir Kumar, a business development director at Qualcomm’s research lab.

Pressed for examples, Kumar ticks off a litany: If you tag your dog in a photo, your phone’s camera would recognize the pet in every subsequent photo. At a soccer game, you could tell the phone to snap a photo only when your child is near the goal. At bedtime, it would know without your telling it to send calls to voice mail. In short, says Grob, your smartphone would have a digital sixth sense.

Qualcomm executives are reluctant to embark on too many flights of fancy before their chip is even available. But neuromorphic researchers elsewhere don’t mind speculating. According to ­Dharmendra Modha, a top IBM researcher in San Jose, such chips might lead to glasses for the blind that use visual and auditory sensors to recognize objects and provide audio cues; health-care systems that monitor vital signs, provide early warnings of potential problems, and suggest ways to individualize treatments; and computers that draw on wind patterns, tides, and other indicators to predict tsunamis more accurately. At HRL this summer, principal research scientist Narayan Srinivasa plans to test a neuromorphic chip in a bird-size device from AeroVironment that will be flown around a couple of rooms. It will take in data from cameras and other sensors so it can remember which room it’s in and learn to navigate that space more adeptly, which could lead to more capable drones.

It will take programmers time to figure out the best way to exploit the hardware. “It’s not too early for hardware companies to do research,” says Dileep George, cofounder of the artificial-­intelligence startup Vicarious. “The commercial products could take a while.” Qualcomm executives don’t disagree. But they’re betting that the technology they expect to launch this year will bring those products a lot closer to reality.

Robert D. Hof

 

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Ray Kurzweil – How to Create a Mind

This is one of the longer presentations I’ve seen by Ray Kurzweil.  In the video, Kurzweil discusses some of the concepts behind his latest book, How to Create a Mind.  This talk covers a lot of ground; everywhere from the Kurzweil’s Law (Law of Accelerating Returns), merging with technology, pattern recognizing technology, the effects of economy on life expectancy, solar energy, medical technology, education…  Well, you get the picture.  Check it out.


Runtime: 1:01:00

This video can also be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT2i9dGYjkg


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Published on Jun 17, 2014