Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tomaso Poggio on AI, Neuroscience, and Physics

Highly recommended interview with MIT professor Tomaso Poggio, which I listened to recently on a plane. IIRC, I largely agreed with his positions except that I'm a bit more optimistic about AGI. I think his estimate for AGI was 100 or 200 years from now, whereas I think by the end of my lifetime is a distinct possibility.

Poggio (trained in theoretical physics) starts by describing the effect that Special Relativity had on him as a kid. It is a striking realization that pure thought experiments of the kind originally formulated by Einstein can have such far-reaching implications. See Physics as a Strange Attractor:
I suspect that Special Relativity, because it is easy to introduce (no mathematics beyond algebra is required), yet deep and beautiful and counterintuitive, stimulates many people of high ability to become interested in physics.
I notice (perhaps unsurprisingly) a lot of similarities in Poggio's views and those of his former student Demis Hassabis of DeepMind.
Tomaso Poggio is a professor at MIT and is the director of the Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines. Cited over 100,000 times, his work has had a profound impact on our understanding of the nature of intelligence, in both biological neural networks and artificial ones. He has been an advisor to many highly-impactful researchers and entrepreneurs in AI, including Demis Hassabis of DeepMind, Amnon Shashua of MobileEye, and Christof Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. This conversation is part of the Artificial Intelligence podcast and the MIT course 6.S099: Artificial General Intelligence. The conversation and lectures are free and open to everyone. Audio podcast version is available on

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