Alberta AI pioneer plans new research institute in Edmonton

As part of his continuing quest to achieve human-like artificial intelligence through reinforcement learning, Richard Sutton plans to develop OpenMind Research, a non-profit group dedicated to implementing the Alberta Plan for AI Research.

“It’s such a longstanding goal of mankind to understand how we think and improve ourselves… so far as to create new beings that are as intelligent and powerful as we are now,” Sutton explained during the final keynote speech of the Upper Bound AI conference, organized by the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) from May 23 to 26.

OpenMind would build on the work done at the recently closed DeepMind Alberta office, which Sutton co-founded with Michael Bowling and Patrick Pilarski in 2017.

Sutton, a Canada CIFAR AI chair and chief scientific advisor at Amii, seeks to create what he called Agent AI, which differs from the Tool AI that has recently gained prominence through Large Language Models like ChatGPT and the open-source 3D protein imaging database AlphaFold.

“They’re not powerful by themselves, they’re powerful when used by a person,” Sutton said of Tool AI.

Agent AI is able to learn, adapt, and overcome challenges based on experience, not unlike teaching a human. In Sutton’s conception, Agent AI is created of humanity, like a child, rather than against it.

“We include the possibility that (Agent AI) might teach us something fundamental,” Sutton said. “Just as we expect our children, as they grow up, might teach us something fundamental.”

While the concept of an autonomous artificial intelligence might be daunting, Sutton suggested fears it could cause the extinction of humanity are unfounded.

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