EmTech MIT

by Kathryn on November 3, 2015

I braved the commute into and out of Boston yesterday to attend an incredible conference at MIT. One of the greatest things about being a journalist is being able to get a press pass to attend this type of event.

I was mostly interested in the morning session on artificial intelligence (AI), because I’m working on a book idea on this subject. The presenters were Eric Horvitz of Microsoft and Yann LeCun of Facebook.

Some highlights from Eric Horvitz’ talk:

  • Artificial Intelligence today is about reasoning under uncertainty
  • I was passionate to know what was going on with human brains. Biology had discovered how to do some beautiful magic that we had very little understanding of.
  • Richer models will bring together multiple competencies and play a symphony of sorts – a symphony of intelligence.
  • Deep competencies are what we perceive as conscious experience.

At the end of the talk, I was one of three audience members chosen to ask a question. My question:

“You mentioned that neural networks are very loosely inspired by biology. What are the major similarities and differences between what happens in a deep learning system and the brain?”

Eric Horvitz had a great answer, which I summed up in a tweet.

  • You don’t need to know exactly how a feather works to build an airplane. We’re looking for the equivalent of aerodynamics for AI.

The rest of the day included sessions about urban planning and the future of energy. I especially enjoyed a talk on batteries and one on nuclear reactor designs. The weather was gorgeous — here I am with the view of Boston from the balcony.


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