Co-founder and Chief Scientist, NNAISENSE; Scientific Director, Dalle Molle Institute for AI Research; Professor of AI, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland
EVEN MINOR EXTENSIONS of existing machine learning and neural network algorithms will achieve important super-human feats in numerous fields, ranging from medical diagnostics to smarter smartphones that will solve more of your problems. In the nottoo-distant future we will have what I call ‘watch-and-learn robotics’, where we quickly teach an artificial neural network to control a complex robot with many degrees of freedom to execute complex tasks, such as assembling a smartphone, solely by visual demonstration and by talking to it, without touching or otherwise guiding the robot. Going forward, this will affect many professions.
My company recently won the Learning to Run competition at NIPS, the machine learning conference in Long Beach, California, going up against over 400 competitors from industry and academia. The challenge was to learn to control the muscles of a simulated human torso and make it run as far as possible without a teacher. Human babies need a year or so to learn to get up and walk and run, and our runner also needed many weeks of computation time [watch this video at https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=rhnxt0vccse].
Elsewhere, in a project with AUDI, we built the brains of the first model cars that learned how to park from scratch, again without a teacher [watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=c01qvu5e1oi]. We also have AI applications in industry and finance. Our joint venture with Acatis is called Quantenstein, with the first purely Ai-driven portfolio management.
We believe we can go far beyond what is possible today and pull off the big practical breakthrough that will change everything, in line with my motto since the 1970s: Build an AI smarter than myself, so that I can retire. What would it be used for? Everything. Humans should do zero per cent of the hard and boring work, computers the rest. How far off is this? Not more than a few years or decades. We are currently witnessing the ignition phase of this field’s explosion. This is much more than just another industrial revolution. This is something new that will transcend humankind and even biology.
People often ask me how to prepare for the future. I tell them what I tell my daughters: Be prepared to learn new things all the time, and make sure to learn how to learn. It will always be an advantage to know a bit of math and physics, because the world is based on them. In addition to that, acquire something that I don’t have — namely, social skills. Then you will be able to quickly master all new challenges.