A new announcement was made by a non-profit, non-partisan organization called TED, which has been the staging point for advancements within a think tank format since 1984. Though it seeks to cover “free knowledge” concerning all ways to help the global community, the focus for new innovations with comprehensible engineering plans is usually tech-based, and now they are setting their sights upon the development of artificial intelligence in conjunction with the XPrize incentive.
The bi-annual TED Conferences send invitations to the world’s most open-minded people to give speeches, from Bill Gates to Sir Richard Branson, and the XPrize Board of Trustees includes James Cameron and Arianna Huffington. The purpose of this mission initially has been designed with high expectations, hoping that the winners of the incredibly complicated endeavor will be able to make a robot who can give an 18 minute TED speech in front of brilliant scientists with such fluidity as to deserve a standing ovation.
This might be overreaching, according to precedence. The most recent powerful AI was Watson, a computer designed for the challenge of winning the game show Jeopardy! as a way of proving itself the same way computers have been measured against their capacity to beat humans at chess, which they first achieved in the late 1980s and have gone undefeated since 2006. Named after IBM’s first CEO, Watson was manufactured by the DeepQA project and required 20 engineers over 3 years to build.
Though the cost was said to be equivalent to the 90 Power 750 servers they used, costing around $3 million and about the same as a CT scanner, this does not include the effort of the scientists. In 2011, Watson defeated previous record winners Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings for the $1 million prize by using 200 million pages and four terabytes of content, including all of Wikipedia. Critics point out, however, that the machine cannot actually think, it efficiently processes vast amounts of information.
The XPrize competition is run by a non-profit organization run by CEO Peter Diamandis with the desire to push all imaginable fields to the next level, from biological research to health care. Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, is hopeful about the new advancements that this incentive could spark, even if the details are still being worked out. The actual shape of the machine is still in debate as well, with either the possibility of an anthropomorphized robot or simply a voice such as Watson, and the possible prize for the competition ranges from $1 million to $10 million. The only thing that has been agreed upon is that it must surprise the audience, with TED organizers saying that “the winner would be judged on the scale of audience applause.”
The XPrize took its methodology from the Orteig Prize, which was offered by a French hotelier in 1919 for $25,000 to anyone who could complete the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris, and in 1927 Charles Lindbergh won by flying the distance with the Spirit of St. Louis. Future XPrizes are being geared towards oceanography, aviation fuel, and energy concerns.
As it is understood now, the development of artificial intelligence is going to be a mirror for the growth of the human intellect. Little is known about the full functionality of the brain, so while creating AI from the ground up it is believed that in essence it will be like watching the systematic evolution of consciousness. The questions beyond that remain about the definition of human cognitive intangibles such as emotional content, but for that the world will have to wait for another XPrize.
The current TED competition is still in the works, and anyone can submit their ideas at the XPrize website for what the contest should be, including topic choices and standards for evaluation.
By Elijah Stephens