Zuckerberg, Musk and Kutcher invest in artificial intelligence startup

Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are putting some of their own money into a hot new artificial intelligence start-up. And so is Ashton Kutcher.

That’s the word in the Wall Street Journal, which reported Friday that the Facebook and Tesla CEOs are joining in a $40 million funding round for Vicarious, a secretive Silicon Valley start-up that’s working on developing computer code that simulates the human cortex. Kutcher, the actor who portrayed Steve Jobs in a recent film, is also investing.

Artificial intelligence is hot in Silicon Valley these days. Google, Facebook and plenty of other companies are investing a lot of resources in developing “deep learning” algorithms that can do a better job of identifying images, answering questions and anticipating what their users want or need.

In fact, Google recently spent a reported $400 million to buy Deep Mind, another AI start-up based in London that Facebook had reportedly been eyeing. Both companies have hired some of the biggest academic names in AI research, from Yann LeCun (who went to Facebook last December) to Google’s Andrew Ng and Ray Kurzweil.

But this is a personal investment by Zuckerberg, according to the Journal, which notes that Vicarious is also backed by the likes of Peter Thiel, Dustin Moskovitz and others.

Vicarious says on its website that it’s working on “developing machine learning software based on the computational principles of the human brain. Our first technology is a visual perception system that interprets the contents of photographs and videos in a manner similar to humans.”

Among other things, the company says it’s developed software that can pass the “Captcha” test – those little boxes on some websites that ask you to read a series of irregular numerals and characters, to prove you’re human. In an article last month, the Journal also reported that Vicarious is working on software that can understand and “imagine” what an object looks like – for example, by drawing crude digital renderings of cows.

(Photo of Mark Zuckerberg by Nhat Meyer/Mercury News)


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  • Ulises

    Thus, step by step, if intelligent machines take over all human activity, including art and science, what will happen to the organic body and its conditioned-to-work-and-think brain? Surely, will it decay? Is mankind-machines coexistence possible while people are fighting for jobs and resources: competition, enterprises, nations, and so on? Anyway, what is the endeavour in which a robot cannot take part or channel at all suscesfully? Why won’t the future automatons be alive? What is the fundamental difference between a mechanical structure, organic or inorganic, that imitates life and life itself? Is there any, virtual or real? If it said that there is a difference, is it just some kind of authority who is defining and differentiating between things? Perhaps then, someday, will be a powerful automaton the one who will define life, its unique life, truth itself? Will he impose its point of view with his outstanding intelligence, his new science? That is, will he define where life begin and end too? Therefore, where does death too? Along these lines, there is a peculiar book, a preview in goo.gl/rfVqw6 Just another suggestion, in order to free-think for a while