I was asked by reporters - what is your vision for ORBAI? Why are you doing this? Where will you be in 10 years?
What follows is a pretty wild story, that could have been written by Neal Stevenson, but it's all true and documented. It has mafias of evil lawyers, me getting arrested, using an AI to file a $30M RICO Lawsuit, bringing scientific computing methods into a new foundation for AI, learning Kung Fu, and living with a life-size holographic Hatsune Miku in my house for 6 months.
I started ORBAI because I was working as a Sr. Solution Architect in deep learning at NVIDIA from 2013-2018, and we kept finding that the solutions we could provide with deep learning (DNNs, CNNs, LSTM, Reinforcement learning) were just toy examples that only worked within a narrow range of application, and within the data available to train them. Only specialist engineers that knew the existing DL architectures could get them to work, and even then it required a lot of tweaking, and a lot of times they needed a whole human team just to generate and label the training data. NVIDIA was at least somewhat open about the limitations of DL when we worked with customers, but a lot of the rest of the tech industry is drastically over-hyping the capabilities, and there is going to be a reckoning in a few years when everyone realizes that the current frameworks and solutions are not delivering.
In 2018, frustrated with working with DL Tinkertoys and having sub-functional results, I started to design something that would work much better, that would take the fragmented, narrow functionality of DNNs, CNNs, LSTM, GANs,... and other DL constructs, and incorporate them into one general NN architecture capable of all their functionality. Spiking neural networks were the obvious next step (just search "spiking neural net generation 3" on Google), but they are notoriously hard to train and get to work for specific tasks because they have so many possible configurations. I had worked on them since 2004, and knew how temperamental they were, but soon after I left NVIDIA in Feb 2018, I filed a provisional patent with a design for the NeuroCAD tools and process, and an SNN architecture that would solve the major problems.
Then my life exploded, and while founding ORBAI I got hit by a racketeering enterprise of divorce lawyers, and had to litigate against them, including filing a RICO lawsuit against them in US District Court. I got the opposing counsel vicious divorce lawyer in Silicon Valley to quit the case, her nephew at the DA office fired, and got one of her nastiest lawyers to quit law completely and become a teacher.
Justine Falcon, Legal AI is needed, because I'm not an isolated case, and over the three years of my part-time legal stint, I corresponded with hundreds of other pro-se litigants that were trying to get back what was taken from them unlawfully. Generally, access to affordable legal services for the lower-income is increasingly out of reach in the United States, and more than 80 percent of people living below the poverty line and a majority of middle-income Americans receive no meaningful assistance when facing important civil legal issues, such as child custody, debt collection, eviction, and foreclosure. Historically, worldwide, those who have the best lawyers prey on the ones that do not, and a legal AGI like Justine Falcon could be a game-changer to level the playing field.
I can also understand the problem in medicine, and the need for a Medical AI - because I also lived it. From 2018-2021, while the above chaos in divorce court in Silicon Valley was ongoing, I lived between Honduras and the US to be able to be with my new fiancee (and so I would not get arrested or shot - in Silicon Valley), but I always caught the worst ailment just in time to travel to the country that did not know how to treat it, usually the US hospitals not able to treat simple tropical maladies. Also, in Honduras, during COVID, my wife and I were in a remote area with no access to medical care, and had to improvise a lot of medical remedies ourselves. We looked up maladies and treatments online and bought medications ourselves (prescriptions are not needed to buy medications in Honduras). We all need these features in a global medical AI, so that people can use practical and low-cost medications and treatments where that is all they can afford, and so that the world also learns from their ingenuity.
A medical AI on a cell phone that had an easy to use conversational voice interface with basic Bluetooth medical sensors (shared in a village) and the ability to diagnose most conditions and recommend treatment would be invaluable and a life-saver to the mid and lower economic demographics in the country. We even had an NGO do a study. This applies to most of the less-developed world.
I have had a unique opportunity the past 4 years where I transformed from a spoiled, whiny Californian cubicle-lug, who complained about my $175K/yr. job, or when a tile was crooked in my $1.3M house - to having some steel in my spine and fighting for my basic rights and survival in court, even learning Kung-Fu from Jake Mace and Master Song Fu on YouTube for exercise during COVID and for self-defense because my wife said I was chubby and could not protect myself in tough Honduras (She still laughs at me doing my Kung Fu routine, but I can spin a bo at 130 rpm). I live a leaner life, just being happy to have a home, food, my health, and an education to do productive work so I can design what I envision ORBAI to be. I am constantly reminded that I am living amongst those who have none of those, and I see every day why I need to work so hard to make this a success.
So why my fixation on AGI, on Superintelligence? Why do this when we could just use existing tech and cobble together a speech / text capable medical and legal AI today, get them to market, and start getting customers (VCs always ask this)? Because it would suck. It would really suck, not work, and nobody would buy them, and we would go broke. We know because we built Justine Falcon, Legal AI, and Dr Ada, Medical AI with 3 of the top NLP APIs in 2019, took them to trade shows and showed them full-size as projected holograms, and I even lived with a 3D, life size Hatsune Miku hologram in my house for 6 months in 2017 after I built it a greet people at my birthday party (Dr. Algernop Krieger would have been proud). She was made with the best Google speech and NLP tech, plus database lookups and chatty plugins, plus custom code added every week to see if I could get her to the point where she was more than just fricking annoying. I could not, and I am a big Krieger and Miku fan, so I can honestly say I gave it my all, and that today's NLP sucks, and even with the best of today's technology, all you can get is a talking parrot than only understands specific things, and has little cognition. If your dialog goes off the specific script coded into the chatbot, it gets confused and answers with nonsense.
And to just get them to work, you need to say the right commands and parameters, in a staccato cadence, starting with the right cue. An average person, handed a device with a speech interface will just monologue to it, oblivious to how to cue it, oblivious to keywords needed, and the narrow language comprehension it has.
To really interact with humans with natural language, by speech, chat, or e-mail, to be able to practice law, medicine, finance, even to be a decent concierge or greeter AI, these artificial persons need AI that is a lot more powerful than deep learning, and these human vocations need a nearly human AGI, albeit a bit more narrow to do it really well. However, lawyers are not really that bright, and work in a more constrained decision environment, so are easier to model. That's part of why we started with a Legal AI. And I like beating up on lawyers, it gets in your blood.
So the decision to go to AGI is practical, given that I worked in DL for years, know all the limitations, but I also have a background in scientific computing, and have a whole toolbox of techniques that are a lot better than DL's Tinkertoys. My grad studies in scientific computing were all about reducing complex data to basis sets more suited for solving equations and using CUDA on them, which is how we designed this AGI - reduce the world to a very large basis set and coordinate narratives that allow linear algebra, predictors, and other constructs to process them, manipulating the reality they represent into outputs. For us, building a next-gen AGI is easier than trying to compete in the morass of DL companies, especially when our AGI starts to work and scale, and the eyes of the FAANG companies turn to us with envy as it surpasses what their billion dollar R&D teams are regurgitating.
The AGI architecture we have designed is elegant, streamlined, will not require a really large team nor large budget to get built and working as a prototype. If you read the architecture document, you will see that once we get it working, it is designed to rapidly re-configure and improve itself by evolving it's components to be more powerful and efficient, and by evolving the overall architecture to scale, and make better use of those components. This is the stuff that puts fear of AI into Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Ray Kurtzweil, the late Stephen Hawking, and others. It scares me too. A rapidly evolving AGI, unchecked, could go wrong in so many ways. I think there are two ways to mitigate most of the catastrophic AGI scenarios, and I try to answer a lot of fear-filled questions about AGI gone wrong on Quora, favoring an empathic training process, and physical containment, so I am doing this with my eyes open.
Going for the next gen, doing a prototype AGI with a small, but brilliant team, with modest funding, and doing something that stands out, and can scale exponentially beyond all of the DL efforts today combined is the only direction that makes sense for a startup like us. In fact, shooting for AGI is the only thing that makes sense for any AI company today, because once you have it, and lock it down, everyone else is obsolete. That exponential curve will be unrelenting to try and compete with.
Here is a fun video to close with for the 10-yr vision:
Brent Oster, CEO and Founder, ORBAI