Jeff Hawkins Announces the Thousand Brains Project for AI

Jeff Hawkins Announces the Thousand Brains Project for AI

An ambitious new endeavor called the Thousand Brains Project aims to develop a new AI framework that its founder says will operate on the same principles as the human brain—yet will be fundamentally different from the principles underlying the deep neural networks that dominate artificial intelligence today. With funding from the Gates Foundation, the open-source initiative aims to partner with electronics companies, government agencies, and university researchers to explore potential applications for its new platform.

In today’s artificial neural networks, components dubbed neurons are fed data and cooperate to solve a problem, such as recognizing images or predicting the next word in a sequence. Neural nets are called “deep” if they possess multiple layers of neurons.

Deep neural networks currently match or beat human performance on many tests, such as identifying skin cancer and playing complex games, However, they are plagued by a host of problems. For example, as they grow in size and power, they become more energy hungry—to train OpenAI’s GPT-3, a 2022 Nature study suggested the company spent US $4.6 million to run 9,200 GPUs for two weeks. Neural networks also often prove unstable, with slight alterations in the data they receive leading to wild changes in outcomes. For instance, previous research found that changing a single pixel on an image can make an AI think a horse is a frog.

To overcome these challenges, the Thousand Brains Project aims to develop a new AI platform by reverse engineering the neocortex, which accounts for about 80 percent of the human brain’s mass.

“Today’s neural networks are based on basic neuroscience from 80 years ago. We’ve learned a lot about neuroscience since then, and we want to use that knowledge to advance AI,” says Jeff Hawkins, who co-invented the Palm Pilot in the 1990s. Hawkins is co-founder of the AI company Numenta in Redwood City, Calif., which launched the Thousand Brains Project on 5 June at Stanford University’s Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence conference.

The Goals of the Thousand Brains Project

This project’s name is inspired by the structure of the neocortex; it’s made up of thousands of so-called cortical columns, each divided into multiple layers of neurons. “The human brain has about 150,000 cortical columns, and each one is essentially its own learning machine,” Hawkins tells IEEE Spectrum.

Deep networks essentially generate a single model of the world, processing data step by step from simple features to complex objects, Numenta researchers have argued. In contrast, the company’s “thousand brains theory of intelligence proposes that the brain’s many cortical columns generate multiple maps of the world, as if each human brain was actually thousands of brains working in parallel simultaneously.

Jeff Hawkins says the Thousand Brains Project offers a way forward for AI.Numenta

“Once we learn how to build one cortical column, we can build as many…

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The post “Jeff Hawkins Announces the Thousand Brains Project for AI” by Charles Q. Choi was published on 06/17/2024 by