It sounds like the start of a joke.
An actor, an internet mogul and a tech entrepreneur walk into a pub and tell the bartender “We just invested $40 Million dollars so someday a robot can do your job.”
Yeah, we can’t think of a good punchline either. But the barkeep probably wouldn’t be too happy about it.
But Ashton Kutcher, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk did team up to invest $40 Million in Vicarious FPC, which hopes to build a “computer that thinks like a person,” according to Time.
The actor and billionaire tech entrepreneurs backed the firm’s vision to build a system capable of “replicating the functions of the neocortex of the human brain;” the part that controls body movement, vision, understands language and does math, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The ultimate goal: the company hopes to build a “computer that thinks like a person,” Scott Phoenix, Vicarious co-founder, said, “except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.”
Well a robot bartender wouldn’t be very good if he was always sleepy and hungry, obviously.
Musk, the investor behind the electric car company Tesla, is no stranger to forward-looking investments. In addition to his work to mainstream the electric car, Musk is behind the company SpaceX, which is developing quickly reusable rocket technology that Musk says could be used to colonize other planets.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement that his Vicarious investment reflects a personal interest and not a move on behalf of the social network he built, but the artificial intelligence technology companies like Vicarious are developing could be instrumental in turning Facebook’s massive amount of user-generated data into usable information.
And Kutcher, though not known as a tech entrepreneur or investor, has played one in the movies (Steve Jobs).
It’s possible the three AI amigos banded together because they see a broadening interest for artificial intelligence in daily life, or perhaps they see other potential competitors lining up to get a piece of the robot pie too: XPrize and TED have now partnered to lure inventors and pioneers to create an artificial intelligence presence that can conduct its own TED talk without any human assistance whatsoever.
And while big names like Kutcher, Zuckerberg and Musk can bring in significant cash flow for emerging technologies, XPrize and TED decided to harness the power of the public’s imagination to spur growth in AI. The two partners decided to let the public decide the length, format and topic for the first non-human TEDtalk, and whether it will be a disembodied robot voice doing the talking or a walking humanoid with full locomotion. So many choices.
Do you think the $40 will be a good investment? Or, would you watch a robot give a TedTalk?