Sunday, March 11, 2007

Two steps closer to The Singularity?

Jeff Hawkins (inventer of the Palm Pilot and the Treo) has turned to work on neuroscience full-time and has published On Intelligence describing his memory-prediction framework theory of the brain.

In a recent interview with Wired Magazine, Hakwins, claims to have something quite significant to contribute to the study of artificial intelligence. The Numenta Platform for Intelligent Computing.

Wired 15.03: The Thinking Machine: "Hawkins joins a long line of thinkers claiming to have unlocked the secrets of the mind and coded them into machines. So thoroughly have such efforts failed that AI researchers have largely given up the quest for the kind of general, humanlike intelligence that Hawkins describes. “There have been all those others,” he acknowledges, “the Decade of the Brain, the 5th Generation Computing Project in Japan, fuzzy logic, neural networks, all flavors of AI. Is this just another shot in the dark?” He lets the question hang for a moment. “No,” he says. “It’s quite different, and I can explain why.”

... Hierarchical Temporal Memory, or HTM ...

An HTM consists of a pyramid of nodes, each encoded with a set of statistical formulas. The whole HTM is pointed at a data set, and the nodes create representations of the world the data describes — whether a series of pictures or the temperature fluctuations of a river. The temporal label reflects the fact that in order to learn, an HTM has to be fed information with a time component — say, pictures moving across a screen or temperatures rising and falling over a week. Just as with the brain, the easiest way for an HTM to learn to identify an object is by recognizing that its elements — the four legs of a dog, the lines of a letter in the alphabet — are consistently found in similar arrangements. Other than that, an HTM is agnostic; it can form a model of just about any set of data it’s exposed to. And, just as your cortex can combine sound with vision to confirm that you are seeing a dog instead of a fox, HTMs can also be hooked together. Most important, Hawkins says, an HTM can do what humans start doing from birth but that computers never have: not just learn, but generalize."

The article didn't go on to explain HTM's to my full satisfaction but Numenta's Community Wiki did a much better job.

... but wait, there's more! ...

In another, entirely separate Wired Magazine interview, Douglas R. Hofstadter (Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach and I Am a Strange Loop), makes some interesting points about self awareness.

Wired 15.03: PLAY: "WIRED: How is your new book different from Gödel, which touched on physics, genetics, mathematics, and computer science?

HOFSTADTER: This time I’m only trying to figure out “What am I?”

Well, given the book’s title, you seem to have found out. But what is a strange loop?

One good prototype is the Escher drawing of two hands sketching each other. A more abstract one is the sentence I am lying. Such loops are, I think anyone would agree, strange. They seem paradoxical and even strike some people as dangerous. I argue that such a strange loop, paradoxical or not, is at the core of each human being. It is an abstract pattern that gives each of us an “I,” or, if you don’t mind the term, a soul."

I realize this is a stretch, but my imagination immediately jumps to pictures of the vast information of Wikipedia, and the Internet in general, all wrapped up with a friendly personality. Then make it self aware and, BOOM, One strange looped Singularity coming right up! I think they should name it "Singleton". It has a nice ring to it. "Thanks for explaining the meaning of life to me, Singleton, your a pal!".

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