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Understanding Neocortex to Create Intelligence

There are two approaches to create intelligence in machines. One is to understand how human brain creates intelligence and replicate the methods used by it to create AI. The other is to take a fresh engineering approach to create intelligence.

There is an ongoing debate as to which approach is feasible or better. Few companies like Numenta and Vicarious have invested in understanding the neocortex. They have launched successful applications that work on the principles of neocortex. Other big companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook use deep learning to create applications that can do major classification tasks. But deep learning does not exploit the concepts of neocortex, and hence is not up to the mark to do continuous learning. The deep learning models first go through a training phase and then the models are used to do classification.

The idea that makes neocortex truly intelligent is that it is able to do pattern matching and prediction. This has given humans the ability to survive and dominate the animal kingdom. Neocortex, a thin layer formed on top of the brain, started gaining prominence in mammals. A rat with a small sheet of neocortex is able to travel in a maze. It uses the trained patterns to predict the route in a maze. Researchers like Jeff Hawkins, founder of Numenta, believes that this ability of neocortex if replicated in machines will make them truly intelligent. He has created an architecture that exploits the hierarchy of neocortex. He calls it Hierarchical Temporal Memory (HTM). HTM is able to perform online learning like humans, where it doesn't need to use stored models, but the models get updated continuously.

Other approaches that model the neocortex have come into prominence and have received funding. The Blue Brain Project conducted by IBM has received a funding of $4.9 million. The idea is to artificially link the neurons in the computer by placing thirty million synapses in their proper three dimensional position. The Human Brain Project funded by European Union is attempting to provide a collaborative informatics infrastructure and first draft rodent and human whole brain models. Henry Markram is the director of both Blue Brain Project and Human Brain Project. He believes that the best way to figure out something is to try to build it from scratch.

Researchers at CereLabs believe that both approaches are essential for the success of a true AI company. We are keeping a close eye on deep learning as well as architectures like HTM. Although deep learning is giving us ready made solutions to create intelligence on your data, architectures like HTM will provide general intelligence solutions. We are betting on General Artificial Intelligence based on the concepts of neocortex. Are you?

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