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7 March 2009

The China Brain project and the future of industry

Filed under: AGI, China, robots — David Wood @ 8:15 pm

An intriguing note popped up on my Twitter feed a couple of hours ago. It was from James Clement, owner and manager at Betterhumans LLC:

with U.S. economy hurting, AI programs may move to China to work with Hugo de Garis. He sees house robots as biggest industry in 20 – 30 yrs

And slightly earlier:

de Garis has already received 10.5 million RMB for the China Brain Project. Basically 10k’s of neural nets for Minsky style “society of mind”

James is attending the AGI-09 conference in Artificial General Intelligence, which is taking place at Arlington, Virginia.

Casting my eye over the schedule for this conference, I admit to a big pang of envy that I’m not attending!

As James says, one of the most significant talks there could be the one by Hugo de Garis. The schedule has a link to a PDF authored in October last year. Here’s a couple of extracts from the paper:

The “China Brain Project”, based at Xiamen University, is a 4 year (2008-2011), 10.5 million RMB, 20 person, research project to design and build China’s first artificial brain (AB). An artificial brain is defined here to be a “network of (evolved neural) networks”, where each neural net(work) module performs some simple task (e.g. recognizes someone’s face, lifts an arm of a robot, etc), somewhat similar to Minsky’s idea of a “society of mind”, i.e. where large numbers of unintelligent “agents” link up to create an intelligent “society of agents”. 10,000s of these neural net modules are evolved rapidly, one at a time, in special (FPGA based) hardware and then downloaded into a PC (or more probably, a supercomputer PC cluster). Human “BAs” (brain architects) then connect these evolved modules according to their human designs to architect artificial brains…

The first author [de Garis] thinks that the artificial brain industry will be the world’s biggest by about 2030, because artificial brains will be needed to control the home robots that everyone will be prepared to spend big money on, if they become genuinely intelligent and hence useful (e.g. baby sitting the kids, taking the dog for a walk, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, reading stories, educating its owners etc). China has been catching up fast with the western countries for decades. The first author thinks that China should now aim to start leading the world (given its huge population, and its 3 times greater average economic growth rate compared to the US) by aiming to dominate the artificial brain industry.

If it’s true that the downturn in the economy will cause a relocation of AGI research personnel from other countries to China, this could turn out to be one of the most significant unforeseen consequences of the downturn.

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1 Comment »

  1. Reminds me of
    this. Note the similarity of a rising nation behind a revolutionary AI project. I remember reading the Feigenbaum/McCorduck book as a teenager and feeling envy that the Japanese were going to be the pioneers for thinking computers. Guess not though. Perhaps if I can live another 25 years, I’ll be recalling this project, when some other rising power (who after China?) launch their revolutionary AI project.

    Comment by David Crookes — 24 March 2009 @ 5:45 pm


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