All posts by Kristinn Thorisson

Are Super-Intelligent Machines Coming?
Dr. Kristinn R. Thórisson in MIT Tech Review

A lot of talk about super-intelligent machines has been circulating in social media and news reports in the past few months, fueled by recent advances in applied genAI technologies. One of the most trusted and revered sources of discussion on this topic is MIT Technology Review. In its March German issue, reporters dive into questions surrounding this hot topic, including whether general machine intelligence – also called AGI – is anywhere on the horizon. To answer this question they contacted a few respected researchers in AI, including Dr. David Chalmers of New York University, Dr. Jurgen Schmidhuber of IDSIA, Dr. Katharina Zweig of TU Keiserslautern and IIIM Director Dr. Kristinn R. Thórisson.

In the issue Dr. Thórisson says “A valid AGI test would need to measure an AI’s capacity to learn autonomously, innovate, and pursue new objectives, while also being able to explain, predict, create, and simulate various phenomena.” These are capabilities that his team’s AGI-aspiring system AERA (Autocatalytic Endogenous Reflective Architecture) is capable of. AERA learns from experience, is capable of what Dr. Thórisson calls ‘machine understanding,’ and corrects its own understanding when it gets things wrong. Thórisson continues “[when learning from experience] we can misunderstand things. When a piece of a puzzle is missing, we seldom choose to start [learning] from scratch – instead, we adjust our existing knowledge based on what we’ve identified as incorrect.”

Continue reading Are Super-Intelligent Machines Coming?
Dr. Kristinn R. Thórisson in MIT Tech Review

Cisco Debuts New System Capable of Cumulative Learning – ‘a New Dawn in Video Analytics’

In traditional image analytics, each frame – whether a photo or a frame from a video – is analyzed in a single pass. If more analysis is desired or needed, incorrect classifications were made, or important details missed, so be it. Not so in the revolutionary new computer vision system that Cisco, in collaboration with a number of academic and industry collaborators, plans to release as open-source software in the coming days.

One of these collaborators is IIIM, whose research on novel AI approaches has, for the past 3 years, been funded in part by Cisco Systems. The system, called Ethosight, uses reasoning to enhance the ability of traditional ANN-based large language models to dissect and classify objects and events in images and video, in realtime. Like a human looking for more clues about what is happening in a particular scenario, the system can improve the quality and depth of its analysis over time, the longer it looks at it, collecting more information about what may be going on. The system is possibly the first of its kind to demonstrate what has been called cumulative learning, that is, the ability to autonomously improve its knowledge about a particular thing over time. A preprint of a paper describing Ethosight has been published on ArXiV repository.

For Ethosight, the things it can address may for instance involve a variety of social situations, such as a child playing near a hot stove, or opening a closet where chemical are stored. According to the blog of Cisco’s Principal Engineer and the first author (see here) of the paper Hugo Latapie, Ethosight breaks away from the traditional limitations of AI systems being positioned “…not just as a real-time video analysis tool but as a vanguard in the continuous learning paradigm…”.



Ethosight ArXiV paper
Hugo Latapie’s Cisco blog
Paper on cumulative learning

A Grounded Assessment of the Generative A.I. Explosion

by Helgi Páll Helgason

We now live in a world where generative AI can conjure photorealistic images of pretty much anything we can think of with results that are often indistinguishable from the real thing (this comes with its own set of problems but that’s a topic for another time). Then we have highly potent Large Language Models (LLMs) that can service very complex requests phrased in natural language, OpenAI’s GPT-4 reigning supreme at the moment. Consider that you can make absurd requests, such as…

The image was generated with Midjourney 5.1. The prompt used was simply “a man looking at the generative AI explosion”.
Image generated with Midjourney 5.1.

“Prove the Pythagorean theorem in a German poem and then list the elements in the periodic table in Chinese”

… and the model will usually generate a correct result from scratch in mere seconds. The same goes for more useful requests such as writing a piece of code and reviewing, rewriting or even generating written content on almost any topic. These examples just begin to scratch the surface of what is possible.

It is clear that LLMs at their present state of development can create significant business value already, but these models have limitations that are sometimes overlooked.

In the midst of the storm of progress and activity currently taking place with Generative AI, I’d like to stop for a moment to reflect, and offer a grounded and practical assessment.

LLMs are very large artificial neural networks. It is sometimes said that they simulate the inner workings of the human brain, but this is true to a far lesser extent than commonly perceived. Since neural networks were first introduced in the 80s, it has been well understood that they are function approximators. Even with the introduction of new features (e.g. attention) and new architectures (e.g. transformers) this fundamental nature remains unchanged. Although simplified, you can think of how they work as learning to map a set of training data points to their correct result values and then interpolating between these data points when given novel data. While often very effective, there is no guarantee that this will always produce correct results. An approximation of a function is not the same as the actual function. As statistician George Box famously said, “All models are wrong, but some are useful”.

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Computer Weekly: Thórisson & Minsky on The Future of AI

A recent article published in Computer Weekly describes discusses a paper by IIIM Managing Director Kristinn R. Thórisson, titled “The Future of AI Research: Ten Defeasible ‘Axioms of Intelligence’“. The paper, which he co-authored with Henry Minsky, son of AI pioneer Marvin Minsky and co-founder of Leela AI, details why contemporary methodologies in AI will not lead to general machine intelligence, and outlines the principles for charting a new course for the research field.

Published in Proceedings of Machine Learning Research vol. 192, the paper charts a visionary course for the field of AI, stating that:

“…to create autonomous self-contained systems that can rival human cognition—machines with ‘human-level general intelligence’ […] calls for a new kind of system that unifies in a single architecture the ability to represent causal relations, create and manage knowledge incrementally and autonomously, and generate its own meaning through empirical reasoning and control.”
(Thórisson & Minsky, 2022, p. 6)

The Computer Weekly article describing the paper and its main message, which the author says may lead to future machines with general intelligence. Contemporary AI approaches, according to the paper’s authors, are limited in that “… the current focus on deep neural networks is hampering progress in the field.”

“Being exclusively dependent on statistical representations – even when trained on data that includes causal information – deep neural networks cannot reliably separate spurious correlation from causally-dependent correlation,” says Thórisson. “As a result, they cannot tell you when they are making things up. Such systems cannot be fully trusted. … The only way to address the challenge is to replace top-down architectural development methodologies with self-organising architectures that rely on self-generated code. We call this ‘constructivist AI’.”
(Pat Brans, Computer Weekly)

Related article:
Computer Weekly: “IIIM Could Revolutionize AI”