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Simon: So I'm here with Jeff Hawkins, this is the guy that invented the Palm Pilot...we've
seen Mark Shuttleworth talk about his edge phone. This is the guy that created the market
Mark's trying to sell into.
Jeff: We actually created one of the first smart phones, the Trio.
Simon: ... ... you don't do palm pilots any more - tell me about your true passion.
Jeff: my true passion, and has been for over 30 years, is neuroscience. Understanding how
the human brain works, (the neocortex) and building machines that work on those same
principles. So, the whole period of palm and handspring was like a sideshow... I couldn't
get the gig I wanted in neuroscience, so I was building mobile computing. I ... loved
it, I enjoyed it I was totally excited about it, but my real passion was brains, how they
work and building machines that work on the same principles.
Simon: So now you've been working most recently on software that can predict the future?
Jeff: That's right, we've actually been working on modelling, figuring out how parts of the
neocortex works. Which is the big (rich?) region on top of your head and we figured
out first what it does and then how it does it (lay yourselves there?) but we've been
applying it to problems where you can take streams of data, model the data and then predict
the future. So we actually have a product called Grok which takes data from windmills,
energy meters and other machines and it can predict future values it can detect when anomalies
are occurring and things like that. So we have a sort of business side to what we're
doing, but we're here at oscon to talk about the new open source project where we take
these learning algorithms, which are essentially models of the neocortex, a slice of the neocortex
and putting them in an open source project.
Simon: So that new open source project, you're launching it?
Jeff: pretty much, it's been up for a couple of months now. its called "nupic" the numenta
platform for intelligent computing. its the same code tree that we use in our products,
so you can go and see what we're releasing every day we have an active community already,
we've had our first hackathon, its only been going for a couple of months, but its been
going pretty well so far, we're pretty excited about it.
Simon: So what would I use that for as an open source hacker?
Jeff: There are a number of reasons why you might be interested in this, people are interested
in applying it to new problems. We're applying it to machine generated data but theres lots
of other applications where people might apply it to. You might apply it, in the same vein
as we're using in Grok you might apply it to financial type of data or you might apply
it to new sources of data which we don't look at, we're focused on certain things. There's
a lot of people interested in taking it and building more complex systems: robotics, vision,
music, things like that. and this requires extending the algorithms. its a memory system,
so making them bigger, putting them in a hierarchy and so on. So theres people who want to apply
it to existing products, like, i want to predict something, people who want to build new types
of products, people who are interested in language, semantics and so on. then there's
people who are interested in doing pure research, they're doing mathematical analysis of these
algorithms, so its kind of broad you know, we're talking about the beginning of building
brains in software and hardware and that's a big big field, it's going to be huge and
it's just getting started. And I should mention we have a number of people interested in doing
hardware implementations of these algorithms there are some big companies, ibm, cgate,
some others who actually have programs on the way, because they're pretty excited about
this stuff.
Simon: So I'd sum it up as "using brain science to work out how to handle big data".
Jeff: It's one way of looking at it. I'm a neuroscientist so I always want to talk about
the neuroscience, but from a hacker or coding point of view yes, today what you can do with
it is yes you can stream fast data to it and it builds models of the data in an online
fashion meaning every record that comes in its updating the model, it makes predictions
and can detect anomalies. I'll give you an example, a simple example we actually did
and used it for is people are interested in predicting energy usage, so a building consumes
energy throughout the day, its up and down depending on what the buildings doing or what's
going on, if you can predict what the energy consumption will be 4 hours from now or 24
hours from now its sometimes advantageous. You can pre-cool the building, you can do
a thing called demand response where you basically buy energy at different prices. so thats the
kind of thing we do with our product Grock today, it works very well at that. Constantly
learning and if the patterns in the world change it adapts to it automatically.
Simon: So what was it that made you give up palm pilots (which were awesome) and get into
neuroscience instead?
Jeff: Well I think that brain science, understanding the brain and how it works and building intelligent
machines is actually a bigger societal impact long term than mobile computing. much much
larger. You know, mobile computing, absolutely, everyone in the world is going to have a computer
in their pocket, it's a process for democratisation and education, so thats all great, but people
don't realise yet how big intelligent machines are going to be. It's sort of like starting
the whole computing industry all over again. So in my talk I mentioned that we're like
the 1950's in computing. 1950s in computing was when they were just starting to build
computers, they were just starting to be useful, but we had decades of advances still to go.
We're starting to build intelligent machines that work on the principles of the brain,
we're just getting started and it's going to be decades, but where its going, its just
gonna be unbelievable, we're going to be able to make machines that are million times faster
at thinking than we are we're going to be able to make machines that have much more
memory than we do, we're going to be able to make machines that can sense things that
we can't sense and so its hard to know where its going to go, just as in the 1950s it was
hard to know where the computer was going to go. but intellient machines, machines that
learn in the way that brains do is just going ot have an amazing impact on society, on the
earth and humanity.
Simon: How do you think being an open source project is going to contribute towards achieving
that vision for you?
Jeff: First of all, my goal has always been to make this happen sooner, to be a catalyst
for this. So anything i can do to spread ideas is a good thing, I'm not in this at this point
trying to make a lot of money off of this. I'm in this because I think its cool, its
fun, its good to do its important. I waited, even though we made this technical, scientific
discovery four years ago and we published it, i waited until we had real demand before
we made an open source project, I wanted people to come to me, and they did, people come to
us and said can you give us the source code to this, its really cool, we want to work
on this, i want to use my phd thesis on this, we want to embed it so when people asked us
we said great and of course this was my goal from the beginning. You can't help but put
these ideas out there. Putting the code out there, showing how this stuff works. some
number of people are going to pick it up, they're going to go, "this is great, I get
it", they're going to invest in it. It's not something anyone can own, it's not one thing.
it's like saying, "could the computing industry be closed?" no, it couldn't, it had to have
lots of competitors, lots of ideas, and this is like that, this is not something that any
person or company can own, so its got to be out there.
Simon: its been fantastic to talk to you and great to see you here at OSCON, I wish you
every success with the project you're working on, thank you very much for talking to us.
Jeff: thankyou, It's Nupic and numenta.org is the url
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Jeff Hawkins - Predicting The Future With Big Data

1412 Folder Collection
Yang Allen published on April 8, 2015
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