A few months ago, the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation financially backed a group of artificial intelligence scientists and computer software programmers in Hong Kong. The group have established a foundation called OpenCog, which provides open software programming to the AI community. The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation was particularly interested in the pioneering work that they are doing in the field of cognitive intelligence: specifically, trying to model human thinking in a virtual platform, in efforts to better understand its mechanism.
OpenCog was co-founded by its Chairman, Ben Goertzel, an AI scientist and software programmer. Goertzel's research work encompasses artificial general intelligence, natural language processing, cognitive science, data mining, machine learning, computational finance, bioinformatics, virtual worlds and gaming amongst others. The cognitive modeling that interested science philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein and his foundation however was a virtual software program that involved three game characters: a ghost, a robot and a girl that push past typical gaming algorithms.
Unlike other game figures, these models come closer to human thinking, in that their functioning is not strictly linear or reactive. Breaking away from traditional algorithms, the models have an 'AtomSpace' built into them. Simulating a memory database, an AtomSpace contains thousands of 'atoms' or knowledge concepts such as objects (chair, table, water, food), actions (sitting, running, singing), needs (hunger, thirst, pain avoidance), feelings (anger, joy, fear). And every time an algorithm, called MindAgents, leads a character from one atom to another, the associative link gets stronger, influencing the characters’ pathway choices towards or away from the path. In this sense, the characters build associative memory. And conversely, associative links decay over time if not used by a character, weakening its memory.
Unlike traditional models, several algorithms can also function at the same time, called, “cognitive synergy”. Cognitive synergy acknowledges that humans have multiple thought processes going on at the same time, and prioritizes one’s over others in order to function. So an associative memory towards food for example, might take priority over a simultaneous experience leading to a place to sit.
"Virtual software modeling is an ideal way to emulate and better understand how the mind works," Jeffrey Epstein noted. "Unlike the use of robots, a virtual platform is flexible, easy to change and adjust."
Another AI cognitive software team that the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation backed is OpenPsi, founded by scientist Joscha Bach in Berlin. Based on the German psycholotist Dietrich Dorner's work, that animal behavior is driven by five basic needs: existence preservation (food, water, body integrity—avoidance of pain), species preservation (sexuality, reproduction), affiliation (need to belong to a group, social interaction), certainty (need to predict events and their consequences), competence (capacity to master problems), OpenPsi's virtual models have need 'tanks' built into them. Each of these needs gets filled or emptied as the characters interact in their virtual world. The status of a need has a significant impact on which pathways a character chooses to take. For example, if the food tank is low, a character will prioritize a food atom in its pathway choice.
In addition to the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation, OpenCog has received support from the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. And while Open Cog’s game software has not yet been commercialized, it is aimed for the market by the half of 2014. The software has already had an impact on the robot industry where companies such as Hanson Robotics, developed by David Hanson, are incorporating it to advance the way their human-like robots function and interact with people.
There is still a long way to go before artificial intelligence will be able to duplicate the human mind. However Open Cog and OpenPsi’s software is constantly evolving. And as scientists get closer to mapping the human mind, we might discover that we're more pre-determined than we think: that pain is just an electrical impulse, and that free will, though weighing a million different neural filaments or ‘atoms’, is set in genetic algorithmic stone. But it's also known that the mind, as in the virtual world, constantly changes its own architecture, thus leaving are destiny wide open.
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