Tuesday, June 26, 2012


As you are reading this, your computer may itself be learning from you.

Google scientists working in the company's secretive X Labs have made great strides in using computers to simulate the human brain.

Best known for inventing self-driving cars and augmented-reality eyewear, the lab created a neural network for machine learning by connecting 16,000 computer processors and then unleashed it on the Internet. Along the way, the network taught itself to recognize cats.

While the act of finding cats on the Internet doesn't sound all that challenging, the network's performance exceeded researchers' expectations, doubling its accuracy rate in identifying objects from a list of 20,000 items, according to a New York Times report.

There is no truth to the rumour that the study was funded by pirate cats from the planet Procyon, reaching out to their terrestrial counterparts for help in stashing their loot in litterboxes and the like.

Cats like to dig, you see.

The interesting bit of this is, scientists never specified to the network what it was looking for, only feeding it images of cats along with tens of thousands of others. The network developed the concept of "cat" along with parameters for objects that fit the description well enough to be included in the results.
Things that think gain self-awareness, the ability to recognize one's unique place in the world and a concept of self. Things that don't think remain inert, and incapable of accepting change.
Sound like anyone we know?