Democratizing Deep Learning
And then there are startups like Nervana, which offers deep learning on its custom hardware as a cloud service. By making deep learning capabilities more accessible, it hopes to spur the democratization of deep learning for an even wider variety of applications. It is not alone in this goal, and outfits like Ersatz Labs, MetaMind, and Skymind all want to enable a broader adoption of the technology.
Nervana CEO and co-founder Naveen Rao believes that medicine could be one of the fields that will see the most benefit from the improved ability of computers to recognize patterns and images. For all the advances in medical science, the interpretation of scans like X-Rays and MRIs are still left up to doctors themselves, which means that human error could very well find its way into crucial diagnoses. Rao thinks that deep learning could make it possible to apply decades of expertise to a computer, and help less experienced doctors minimize their own errors.
A more specific application would be in the case of diabetic retinopathy (DR), an eye disease that is a leading cause of vision impairment in diabetics. Detecting DR is a tedious and timeconsuming process that requires doctors to closely examine digital photographs of patients’ retinas. Furthermore, the resources and expertise required for accurate diagnoses are often lacking in areas where diabetes is prevalent, which means a reliable method to automate the process is sorely needed.
Kaggle, a platform for data prediction competitions, ended up hosting a contest for quicker and more accurate detection. The results were promising, as all top five entries turned out results that were more accurate than human doctors, the latter’s accuracy being determined as the rate of agreement among three clinicians.
To sum things up, before artificial intelligence can even surpass ours, it must first take a leaf from our book (or rather, our craniums). HAL 9000 may be a long way off, but fragments of its precursors are already driving advances in areas as varied as consumer technology and medicine.
Neural pathways of a macaque brain as simulated by TrueNorth.