There is no other technology receiving as much traction as Artificial Intelligence and there are no signs of investment and research in this field slowing down. Tech players are spending big money into R&D, acqui-hiring and poaching the best talent to strengthen their capabilities in areas such as natural language processing, machine learning, quantum computing, publishing papers and developing technology that can be used in-house and by third party players.
Can Cracking the Brain Code Lead to True AI?
Given that tech companies, excluding OpenAI also have a vested interest in deepening their AI presence, what would a European organization like Mindfire Global, headquartered in Switzerland aim to achieve by advancing research in AI. Founded by Neuroscientist and tech-entrepreneur Pascal Kaufmann, Prof. Christoph von der Malsburg and Lukas Sieber, the organization is on a quest to achieve True AI and is also debunking a popular theory propagated by AI researchers — that the human brain is similar to a deep neural network.
According to founder Kaufman, around 98% research in AI is not being carried out in the right direction since it focuses on computational science. “Ultimately I think if you crack the brain code, you can actually build AI brains that are much more powerful than biological brains," he said reportedly.
Kaufman is also quick to debunk popular notions linking human brain to a computer. Over the years, computer scientists have casted doubt on the proven success of algorithmic power, fuelled by feeding the computers massive datasets. Kaufman termed the success of Google Brain project where the algorithm correctly identified cats as an example of "brute force statistics".
Well, he is not alone, in an earlier article, we explored how despite several breakthroughs, researchers understand the limitations of current AI techniques and although Deep Learning networks have achieved spectacular accuracy for many applications, a minor failure can be catastrophic. According to Francois Chollet, a Deep Learning pioneer, “You cannot achieve general intelligence simply by scaling up today’s deep learning techniques.”
Little wonder, AI researchers and neuroscientists are looking to the brain to unlock real intelligence get over the hump into the realm of true AI, as Kaufman puts it.
Inside Mindfire —Collective of Best Minds in AI
Fashioned more like of collective of best minds committed to advancing research in AI, Mindfire has set itself a lofty goal of unravelling the brain code. Speaking to a media outlet, Kaufman explained his theory behind the brain code and emphasized how instead of focusing on algorithms, the mind can release the true potential of AI. "We have scientists who believe that one can actually decode the brain and understand how it operates under a certain set of rules. These rules would be what we call the brain code, and the ability to understand them could lead to potential breakthroughs," he noted.
They are also debunking the popular theory of Deep Neural Networks being inspired by the human brain, noting that a brain is more similar to an ant colony with cells working in tandem and ruled by a brain code.
The mandate of the global organization is to bring the best talent together in the fields of:
- Cellular automaton
- Artificial organisms
- Artificial neural networks
Meanwhile, there is also news about a Mission 1 (the term colorfully links Mindfire’s research to the famed Apollo space program that put us on the moon) pegged for May, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. A press release statement indicates that during the Mission 1—attending scientists will work together across disciplines to decode the brain and apply that knowledge to the development of Artificial Organisms (AO). Besides floating an all-together new terminology, Artificial Organisms (AO) nudges Artificial Intelligence, the collective is also laying down the foundations of a new research in AI through the understanding of the human brains that could play a pivotal role in building intelligent machines.
Brain Theory — The New Paradigm of Research in AI
The inception of Mindfire indicates how tech companies and research organizations are committed to finding new ways to advance human intelligence through brain theory. It is a strong validation how companies are charting a new way to achieve true AI. According to Numenta
Co-founder Jeff Hawkins, "It may take several years for the discoveries in brain theory to be fully integrated in AI, but the roadmap for how to get there is clear.” In fact, DeepMind CEO &
Co-Founder Demis Hassabis, noted in an earlier article that that better understanding biological brains could play a vital role in building intelligent machines. According to Hassabis, the human brain is the only existing proof of a sort of general intelligence and it's worth putting the effort in brain theory.
Mindfire is Not Alone -- A Slew of Companies & Research Organizations Are Working On BCI
Elon Musk backed Neuralink: This San Francisco-based startup founded by Elon Musk garnered a lot of attention for its talk about building "ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers." The company proposed using electrodes to extract data from human brains, transform it into binary form, and load it into an external computer. The company is an early stage and there is no product information as yet. The recently set up company is still in an early stage and there is no information on technology and products as such.
Facebook Building 8: Facebook's ultra secretive project Building 8 by and large focuses on building consumer hardware and wants to take on Silicon Valley hardware biggies Appple & Google. But in between there is also news about “non-invasive” reading the brainwaves type product that could potentially capture the brain signals from caps that sit atop the head, recent reports indicate. Interestingly, the website indicates that the breakthrough innovation engine is modeled after DARPA.
Numenta: Redwood headquartered Numenta co-founded by Jeff Hawkins, a leading AI researcher has produced a lot of research in the field of neuroscience. The company is working extensively on tackling one of the most important scientific challenges of all time -- reverse engineering the neocortex. California company's mandate is finding how the neocortex can put them on the fastest path to machine intelligence, and creating intelligent machines. Much of the company's work focused on understanding how the brain works and how the brain principles can be used to advance machine intelligence. The company is also building a wide base of IP/patent portfolio that can be used for licensing to third parties. The latest research focuses on how multiple layers of neurons learn to recognize objects via movement. and how layers of neurons learn sequences of patterns.
NeuroTechX: The little known NeuroTechX is a not-for-profit international neurotechnology network of brain researchers and inventors building an open-source project to investigate the mysteries of the mind and promote conversations about the future of neurotechnology. To date, the network has 2000 members and 18 chapters worldwide.
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Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.