Paul Allen is pouring more money into artificial intelligence research.
The Microsoft co-founder on Wednesday announced Project Alexandria, a new initiative that aims to help develop “common sense AI.” Allen is committing $125 million over the next three years to the project, housed at the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2). The money will go toward Project Alexandria, as well as other work being done at AI2.
AI research has seen exponential advancements over the past decade, but machines are still incapable of certain types of problem solving or dealing with unpredictable situations.
“When I founded AI2, I wanted to expand the capabilities of artificial intelligence through high-impact research,” Allen said in a statement. “Early in AI research, there was a great deal of focus on common sense, but that work stalled. AI still lacks what most 10-year-olds possess: ordinary common sense. We want to jump start that research to achieve major breakthroughs in the field.”
Allen added that “this is an extremely complicated challenge.”
“If we want AI to approach human abilities and have the broadest possible impact in research, medicine and business, we need to fundamentally advance AI’s common sense abilities,” he said in a statement.
Project Alexandria, named after the ancient library in Alexandria, Egypt, will pull from AI2’s existing projects in machine learning and reasoning; natural language and understanding; and computer vision.
“Despite the recent AI successes, common sense — which is trivially easy for people — is remarkably difficult for AI,” Oren Etzioni, CEO of AI2, said in a statement. “No AI system currently deployed can reliably answer a broad range of simple questions such as: ‘If I put my socks in a drawer, will they still be in there tomorrow?’ or ‘How can you tell if a milk carton is full?’ For example, when AlphaGo beat the number one Go player in the world in 2016, the program did not know that Go is a board game.”
The New York Times reported that Allen’s new investment will double AI2’s budget over the next three years.
Founded in 2014 by Allen and Etzioni, a longtime computer science researcher and entrepreneur, AI2 is now the largest nonprofit AI research center in North America and has gained credibility around the globe for its performance in AI contests, research papers, ability to attract top AI talent, and two spinout companies, Kitt.ai and Xnor.ai.