Hassabis on AI

Source: The Verge, Jul 2017

In a review published in the journal Neuron today, Hassabis and three co-authors argue that the field of AI needs to reconnect to the world of neuroscience, and that it’s only by finding out more about naturalintelligence can we truly understand (and create) the artificial kind.

You’ve talked in the past, Demis, about how one of the biggest aims of DeepMind is to create AI that can help further scientific discovery, and act as a tool for increasing human ingenuity. 

One of the things you talk about in the paper that AI needs is to understand the physical world like us — to be placed in a room and be able to “interpret and reason about scenes in a humanlike way.” Researchers often talk about this sort of “embodied cognition,” and say we won’t be able to create general AI without it, is that something you agree with?

Yeah, so, one of our big founding principles was that embodied cognition is key. It’s the idea that a system needs to be able to build its own knowledge from first principles — from its sensory and motor streams — and then creating abstract knowledge from there. 

if you want to do things like making connections between different domains, or if you want new knowledge to be discovered (the sort of thing we like to do in science) then these pre-programmed, specialized systems are not going to be enough. They’re going to be limited to the knowledge that can be put in them, so it’s hard for those to really discover new things or innovate or create. So any task that requires innovation or invention or some flexibility — I think the general system will be the only to do that.

One bit of brain functionality that you mention as key to improving AI is imagination, and the ability to plan what will happen in the future.

if you look at things like imagination, it’s the idea that humans and some other animals rely on generative models of the world they’ve built up. They use these models to generate new trajectories and scenarios — counter-factual scenarios — in order to plan and assess [what will happen] before they carry out actions in the real world, which may have consequences or be costly in some way.

Imagination is a hugely powerful planning tool [for this]. You need to build a model of the world; you need to be able use that model for planning; and you need to be able to project forward in time. So when you start breaking down what’s involved in imagination, you start getting clues as to what kind of capabilities and functions you’re going to need in order to have that overall capability.

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