Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has invested in Vicarious, a firm developing software ‘that thinks and learns like a human’, which has already cracked CAPTCHA codes.
Zuckerberg is one of several investors who have pumped a total of $40 million into the firm, including actor Ashton Kutcher, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, entrepreneurPeter Thiel and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz.
Vicarious’ goal is to ‘replicate the neocortex’, the part of the brain that sees, controls the body, understands language and works out maths, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Translating the neocortex into computer code is like having “a computer that thinks like a person,” said Vicarious co-founder Scott Phoenix. “Except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.”
Vicarious’ software has already cracked online CAPTCHA codes, which are designed to prevent online bots from creating website accounts and to check whether the user is human.
But Phoenix said that Vicarious is aiming to go beyond image recognition. He wants to create a computer that can understand shapes, objects and textures. For example, a computer might understand ‘chair’ and ‘ice’ as two separate things, but Phoenix wants to create a computer that will understand a request like “show me a chair made of ice”.
Phoenix hopes that Vicarious will eventually learn to how to cure diseases, create cheap renewable energy and carry out other tasks.
“We tell investors that right now, human beings are doing a lot of things that computers should be able to do,” Phoenix commented.
A Facebook spokesperson added that Zuckerberg’s investment in Vicarious is a personal one and is not associated with Facebook.