Friston: The Genius Neuroscientist Who Might Hold the Key to True AI, WIRED says.

Karl Friston’s free energy principle might be the most all-encompassing idea since Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. But to understand it, you need to peer inside the mind of Friston himself.

Wired has a great article on this idea and researcher.
Some inspiring exerpts and quotes:

He realized that [it] had no larger purpose, at least not in the sense that a human has a purpose when getting in a car to run an errand. The creatures’ movement was random; they simply moved faster in the warmth of the sun.
Friston calls this his first scientific insight, a moment when “all these contrived, anthropomorphized explanations of purpose and survival and the like all seemed to just peel away,” he says. “And the thing you were observing just was. In the sense that it could be no other way.”

Over time, Hinton convinced Friston that the best way to think of the brain was as a Bayesian probability machine. The idea, which goes back to the 19th century …, is that brains compute and perceive in a probabilistic manner, constantly making predictions and adjusting beliefs based on what the senses contribute. According to the most popular modern Bayesian account, the brain is an “inference engine” that seeks to minimize “prediction error.”

In Friston’s mind, the universe is made up of Markov blankets inside of Markov blankets. Each of us has a Markov blanket that keeps us apart from what is not us. And within us are blankets separating organs, which contain blankets separating cells, which contain blankets separating their organelles. The blankets define how biological things exist over time and behave distinctly from one another. Without them, we’re just hot gas dissipating into the ether.

The concept of free energy itself comes from physics, which means it’s difficult to explain precisely without wading into mathematical formulas. In a sense that’s what makes it powerful: It isn’t a merely rhetorical concept. It’s a measurable quantity that can be modeled, using much the same math that Friston has used to interpret brain images to such world-­changing effect. … Free energy is the difference between the states you expect to be in and the states your sensors tell you that you are in.
Or, to put it another way, when you are minimizing free energy, you are minimizing surprise.

“We sample the world,” Friston writes, “to ensure our predictions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“If you think about psychiatric conditions, and indeed most neurological conditions, they are just broken beliefs or false inference—hallucinations and delusions,” Friston says.

The first time I asked Friston about the connection between the free energy principle and artificial intelligence, he predicted that within five to 10 years, most machine learning would incorporate free energy minimization.
The second time, his response was droll. “Think about why it’s called active inference,” he said. His straight, sparkly white teeth showed through his smile as he waited for me to follow his wordplay. “Well, it’s AI,” Friston said. “So is active inference the new AI? Yes, it’s the acronym.”
Not for the first time, a Fristonian joke had passed me by.

2 responses to “Friston: The Genius Neuroscientist Who Might Hold the Key to True AI, WIRED says.”

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