Peter Thiel Backing AI Startup Venture

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence
Founders Fund and Dustin Moskovitz’s Good Technology and Peter Thiel have led a $15 million round in a company that is trying to replicate the intelligence of the human brain in software. Vicarious’ goal is to help humanity thrive by inventing the algorithm to create to intelligent machines.
Startup company Vicarious, an AI firm trying to discover the rules that govern intelligence, has raised $15 million in a first round of funding from tech luminaries including Good Ventures, the fund created by Facebook Co-founder Dustin Moskowitz and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. The money isn’t to help commercialize its technology however, it’s basically R&D spending for a big tech undertaking.

Vicarious wants to build a series of algorithms that mimic the way the mammalian brain processes and applies information — in short it wants to build software that will grant computers intelligence. The first concrete product the Union City, California-based startup aims to build is a human-like object recognition system, but this is something that co-founder and CTO Dileep George, formerly with Jeff Hawkin's Numenta, estimates is three to four years away.

Vicarious Logo

“The technology that Vicarious is developing has the potential to improve all lives and revolutionize every industry. Even the intermediate technologies Vicarious creates en route to artificial intelligence will be immensely impactful,” said Moskovitz, who will be joining Vicarious’s board of directors. “It’s essential that the right people bring this technology into the world,” added Cari Tuna, president of the Good Ventures Foundation and Mr. Moskovitz’s fiancée. “Scott and Dileep share our mission to help humanity thrive, and we’re deeply grateful for their efforts.”

CEO and Co-Founder D. Scott Phoenix explains that the company isn’t focused on commercialization anytime soon as a means to preserve the research into building a truly robust set of intelligence algorithms, as opposed to an industry specific algorithm that leads to limited artificial intelligence — some kind of idiot savant. “We will continue working on solving the core problem.” Phoenix says. “I think it has held back AI when others have tried and found something that works well in a particular domain and then they refine that. Then the tech gets more narrow over time.”

Ultimately, Phoenix says the technology could be used in “almost every industry,” including robotics, medical image analysis, and image and video search,. But that’s a ways off — Phoenix and his co-founder George say they’re still deep in research and development, and that the funding will be used to expand those R&D efforts. Developing products that commercialize the technology is still several years off, George says.
Building computer hardware or software modeled on the human brain is the kind of big tech problem that Peter Thiel, a former PayPal executive and a partner with Founders Fund has called on entrepreneurs to do. This is another example of how Thiel is one of the key figures in the Singularity movement.

Thus in both hardware and software the search for a silicon brain has absorbed researchers. “We want to help humanity thrive,” says Phoenix. “Human progress is limited by the number of people and their training to solve big problems, so by understanding the core algorithms that produce intelligence we can build computers that are 30 billion times faster and dramatically increase the rates of problem solving on behalf of humanity.”

In an interview last year, George made the bold claim that artificial intelligence has the potential “to be bigger than the Internet.”

The realization of these advances is still a ways off, though. George predicts that AI will revolutionize robotics in 10 years, while “real human-like intelligence” is still 15 years off. George's predictions align with  Ray Kurzweil's that we’ll achieve artificial intelligence by 2029.

George and Brown

SOURCE  Vicarious

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