If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Eyesight tests could be used to identify which people with Parkinson's disease are likely to suffer from cognitive impairment and possible dementia 18 months later. UK researchers have found that people with Parkinson's who perform less well in eye tests show worse cognitive performance a year and a half later. The study is one of two by University College London (UCL) published this month looking at people with Parkinson's – the progressive nervous system disorder that causes shakiness and stiffness. The second study found structural and functional connections of brain regions become'decoupled' throughout the entire brain in people with Parkinson's disease, particularly among people with vision problems. The findings support previous evidence that vision changes precede the cognitive decline that occurs in many, but not all, people with Parkinson's.
When winter made its second pandemic appearance here in Montana, I found myself pining to relive my first experience with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. To my dismay, the sequel, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the bash-fest Nintendo released in November, didn't scratch my itch for sweeping, soothing landscapes and low-stakes puzzle solving during a year of high-stakes reality. I've been home with toddlers for 11 months straight, my every lockdown minute a battle against darkness and chaos, replete with my own two tiny red Bokoblins perpetually swinging their Boko Clubs at my weakened defenses. I wondered daily: Are there even enough stamella shrooms in the entire gaming universe to get us through this year? When we first hunkered down last spring, my kids were 18 months and 4 years old.
In the last decades, artificial intelligence has shown to be very good at achieving exceptional goals in several fields. Chess is one of them: in 1996, for the first time, the computer Deep Blue beat a human player, chess champion Garry Kasparov. A new piece of research shows now that the brain strategy for storing memories may lead to imperfect memories, but in turn, allows it to store more memories, and with less hassle than AI. The new study, carried out by SISSA scientists in collaboration with Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience & Centre for Neural Computation, Trondheim, Norway, has just been published in Physical Review Letters. Neural networks, real or artificial, learn by tweaking the connections between neurons.
Without a doubt, the biggest questions about dreaming are all variants on this question: Why do we dream? We began studying dreaming in the early 1990s and, between the two of us, have published over 200 scientific papers on sleep and dreams. Pulling together a variety of compelling neuroscientific ideas and state-of-the-art findings in the fields of sleep and dream research, we propose a new and innovative model of why we dream. We call this model NEXTUP. It proposes that our dreams allow us to explore the brain's neural network connections in order to understand possibilities.
Despite the show being wholly digital this year, Panasonic's automotive division still had plenty to show off at CES 2021. On Monday, the company unveiled five futuristic technologies that will help make the autonomous vehicles of tomorrow more capable and more comfortable. Those include wireless Wi-Fi towing cameras, a Dolby Atmos surround sound system, and augmented reality HUDs. First up, Panasonic Automotive has unveiled its "first fully wireless Wi-Fi camera." This ruggedized camera captures 1080p at 60 fps, connects via the vehicle's Wi-Fi network directly to the infotainment system display, and is designed to stick onto the trailer you're towing to provide an unobstructed view of the traffic conditions around the vehicle.
In #2 of our Top Ten AI Hypes, a guy left his day job to help make AI that thinks like people. Honestly, some of us were stuck for what we could do to top that! Well, our nerds came through for #1!: How about "Elon Musk wants to connect your BRAIN to a computer this year as'awesome' Neuralink mind-chip prepares to launch" (The Sun) ELON Musk has tweeted that his brain-computer chip company Neuralink is working on an "awesome" version of the device. The kooky billionaire believes his brain interface tech will turn humans into a genius super race. Our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks discusses with Eric Holloway and Jonathan Bartlett overyhyped AI ideas, from a year in which we saw major advances, along with inevitable hypes.
This week we are reprinting our top stories of 2020. This article first appeared online in our "Maps" issue in January, 2020. On a chilly evening last fall, I stared into nothingness out of the floor-to-ceiling windows in my office on the outskirts of Harvard's campus. As a purplish-red sun set, I sat brooding over my dataset on rat brains. I thought of the cold windowless rooms in downtown Boston, home to Harvard's high-performance computing center, where computer servers were holding on to a precious 48 terabytes of my data. I have recorded the 13 trillion numbers in this dataset as part of my Ph.D. experiments, asking how the visual parts of the rat brain respond to movement. Printed on paper, the dataset would fill 116 billion pages, double-spaced. When I recently finished writing the story of my data, the magnum opus fit on fewer than two dozen printed pages. Performing the experiments turned out to be the easy part.
The Chinese artist Xu Bing has long experimented to stunning effect with the limits of the written form. Last year I visited the Centre del Carme in Valencia, Spain, to see a retrospective of his work. One installation, Book from the Sky, featured scrolls of paper looping down from the ceiling and lying along the floor of a large room, printed Chinese characters emerging into view as I moved closer to the reams of paper. But this was no ordinary Chinese text: Xu Bing had taken the form, even constituent parts, of real characters, to create around 4,000 entirely false versions. The result was a text which looked readable but had no meaning at all.
Some evolutionary biologists say that after we pass reproductive age, nature, like a cat who's been fed, is done with us. The bodily systems that thrived and repaired themselves to ensure that we pass on healthy genes cease to function well and leave us to slink to the finish line the best we can. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, author of this year's Successful Aging, says "that's not an unreasonable interpretation," but he doesn't settle for the view that aging after 40 is a long and listless mosey to the grave. Levitin, 62, emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University, has lit up readers' minds with his books on the joys of music, This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs. But unlike an aging rocker playing his hits on an oldies tour, Levitin has remained fresh as a writer on the brain, exploring, in The Organized Mind, how to navigate our way through information overload to sane shores.
Gary Marcus, top, hosted presentations by sixteen AI scholars on what AI needs to "move forward." A year ago, Gary Marcus, a frequent critic of deep learning forms of AI, and Joshua Bengio, a leading proponent of deep learning, faced off in a two-hour debate about AI at Bengio's MILA institute headquarters in Montreal. Wednesday evening, Marcus was back, albeit virtually, to open what is now the second installment of what has become a planned annual debate on AI, under the title "AI Debate 2: Moving AI Forward." Vincent Boucher, president of the organization Montreal.AI, who had helped to organize last year's debate, opened the proceedings, before passing the mic to Marcus as moderator. Marcus said 3,500 people had pre-registered for the evening, and at the start, 348 people were live on FaceBook. Last year's debate had 30,000 by the end of the night, noted Marcus. Bengio was not in attendance, but the evening featured presentations from sixteen scholars: Ryan Calo, Yejin Choi, Daniel Kahneman, Celeste Kidd, Christof Koch, Luis Lamb, Fei-Fei Li, Adam Marblestone, Margaret Mitchell, Robert Osazuwa Ness, Judea Pearl, Francesco Rossi, Ken Stanley, Rich Sutton, Doris Tsao and Barbara Tversky. "The point is to represent a diversity of views," said Marcus, promising a three hours that might be like "drinking from a firehose."