Zuckerberg, Musk Invest in Machine Learning Artificial-Intelligence Company Vicarious

Vicarious is developing machine learning software based on the computational principles of the human brain. Their first technology is a visual perception system that interprets the contents of photographs and videos in a manner similar to humans. Powering this technology is a new computational paradigm we call the Recursive Cortical Network.

Vicarious was founded by Mr. Phoenix and Dileep George, a Stanford Ph.D. graduate who studied hierarchical models of the brain. Their premise was to focus on the sensory aspect of the brain, particularly vision’s critical role in the early stages of human development. It has tried to further differentiate itself from its peers by designing a system with a high degree of interactivity between the basic visual receptors of the software, its eyes, and the higher-level, information processing parts. Such a feedback loop allows the machine, for example, to imagine the missing contours of a cat that is partially hidden behind a box.

Vicarious was able to decode Captchas with AI.

Elon Musk (Tesla, Spacex, Solar City), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Ashton Kutcher (actor, x-Mr Demi Moore, now Mr. Mila Kunis) are joining in a $40 million investment in Vicarious.


Last month, Google acquired another AI company called Deep Mind for $400 million.

Vicarious has an ambitious goal: Replicating the neocortex, the part of the brain that sees, controls the body, understands language and does math. Translate the neocortex into computer code and “you have a computer that thinks like a person,” says Vicarious co-founder Scott Phoenix. “Except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.”

Phoenix, the co-founder, says Vicarious aims beyond image recognition. He said the next milestone will be creating a computer that can understand not just shapes and objects, but the textures associated with them. For example, a computer might understand “chair.” It might also comprehend “ice.” Vicarious wants to create a computer that will understand a request like “show me a chair made of ice.”

Phoenix hopes that, eventually, Vicarious’s computers will learn to how to cure diseases, create cheap, renewable energy, and perform the jobs that employ most human beings. “We tell investors that right now, human beings are doing a lot of things that computers should be able to do,” he says.

Vicarious, whose other co-founder was neuroscientist Dileep George, is a long way from accomplishing its goals. Phoenix says the company won’t make a profit anytime soon and it has said very little about how its technology works. It hasn’t even disclosed its exact address, for fear it might be the target of corporate espionage or hacking.

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