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Thought Process: Building an Artificial Brain

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Thinking about aspects of the human brain, and the nature of human intelligence.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen funds a pair of projects aimed at understanding the nature of intelligence.

Credit: The Washington Post

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who has long been fascinated by the brain and the possibility of creating an artificial mind every bit as capable as that of a human being, has been funding a pair of parallel projects to understand the nature of intelligence.

In the early 2000s, Allen founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science, seeding it with $100 million and the mission of trying to better understand the human brain. Over the course of more than a decade, the institute has had remarkable success, using a data-driven methodology to map the human brain and to pursue research into the nature of disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Last year, Allen turned his fascination with the idea of creating an artificial mind into the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. The first product of that institute's research is Aristo, an artificial-intelligence (AI) program the researchers are trying to teach to pass basic biology tests. So far, Aristo has passed the first- through third-grade tests, but it could be years before it can pass a high school test.

Allen sees the research of his two institutes converging at some point down the road, and although his efforts are focused on creating an AI that could serve as a brilliant assistant to humans, he is curious and optimistic about what more it could become.

From The Washington Post
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