Countries viewing this blog within the last 30 days: US, Canada, Sweden, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia, European Union, Greece, Taiwan, and India. So there certainly is a worldwide interest (fear?) in Artificial Intelligence. And the progress in this field has been grossly underestimated. Elon Musk in a recent email (which he has since deleted because it wasn’t supposed to go public): “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most,” he wrote, adding that “Please note that I am normally super pro technology, and have never raised this issue until recent months. This is not a case of crying wolf about something I don’t understand.” Note that I own Tesla stock, so I have some bias as to Elon Musk’s brilliance!
Let’s look at Watson, the IBM computer that won Jeopardy in 2011. Since that victory he has been largely ignored; but he has been very busy. Watson is trying to learn Japanese. Japanese has three different alphabets and thousands of characters. Watson has had 250,000 Japanese words loaded into its memory. Now it must do 10,000 diagrammed sentences. Human translators are giving feedback as to any needed corrections, and by means of this feedback loop, Watson will LEARN the language. Note the emphasis on LEARN! Watson is getting ever closer to learning a language in the same manner as humans. However, he won’t forget the language as many us have from non-use since our college days!
But IBM has more than Watson up its sleeve. It has TrueNorth! This chip is designed to think like the human brain! It is a neural network chip that already works! This chip has the equivalent of 1,000,000 neurons and 256 million programmable synapses. It has its own programming language, which was the result of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) SyNAPSE program. TrueNorth chips can be tied together to create huge systems. IBM has a goal of integrating 4,096 chips giving 4 billion neurons and 1 trillion synapses while using only 4kW of power. If you recall from my earlier update, the brain has 100 billion neurons, each one connected to 10,000 other neurons, for a total of 100 trillion connections. Certainly, the IBM goal will get them within spitting range of the power of the human brain! And if they can tile together 4,096 chips, what is to stop them from putting together even more chips until they exceed the power of the human brain?
But IBM isn’t the only large company pursuing this reverse engineering approach to human thinking. Intel and Aqualcomm are in the race. So are many leading Universities along with the European “The Human Brain Project,” started in 2014.
If we look at the knowledge of Watson and the potential thinking ability of IBM’s TrueNorth, it certainly is easy to imagine that the marriage of these two efforts will eventually lead to some forms of thinking as the limits of TrueNorth are probed. And they WILL be probed, because some programmer somewhere will not be able to resist the challenge despite the risks to mankind. Then, as Musk jokingly stated, perhaps we will be demoted to the position of a Labrador retriever.
Actually I have a Lab, and he is nicer than many people I know. So maybe it won’t be all bad!