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The world's most powerful AI will use Reddit to pick up conversation skills

Catch Team | Updated on: 18 August 2016, 14:59 IST

Reddit has always been a repository of endless possibilities - from memes that make you feel slightly better (or worse) about your life to threads disseminating a wide range of knowledge: a cumbox (yes, it's what you think it is), discussion (and feedback from other users) on your most evil plan , incest and other random and often engaging discussions.

If you needed any more testimony to the significance of Reddit's canon of wisdom, here it is - Elon Musk is going to use Reddit as a primary learning resource to train one of the world's best AI programs .

Musk, the visionary head of Tesla, SpaceX and Paypal among others, has said that OpenAI - a non-profit artificial intelligence (AI) research company backed by him and other big shots at Silicon Valley, will form a partnership with technology manufacturer NVIDIA. This partnership of two AI heavyweights (NVIDIA also has the world's fastest AI supercomputer) has one objective: to develop an uber intuitive AI.

Deep learning on Reddit

This sort of intuition though, isn't just the product of programming. Instead, it will require deep learning. A lot of deep learning. And that's where researchers feel Reddit can come in handy.

" You can take a large amount of data that would help people talk to each other on the internet, and you can train, basically, a chatbot, but you can do it in a way that the computer learns how language works and how people interact," said OpenAI Research Scientist Andrej Karpathy in a release, before the big announcement .

" So right now, if we're training on, say, a month of conversations on Reddit, we can, instead, train on entire years of conversations of people talking to each other on all of Reddit. And then we can get much more data in terms of how people interact with each other. And, eventually, we'll use that to talk to computers, just like we talk to each other."

It isn't very difficult to understand what made the researchers choose Reddit as a resource pool. Or why such a platform was used to begin with. Language has always been a problematic area for AI and deep learning has been seen as the only feasible way to overcome that hurdle. "Deep learning is a very special class of models because as you scale up the models, they always work better," says Karpathy.

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To this end, Reddit certainly presents a very wide array of subjects which see interaction between thousands of users across the world. It's a space ripe for an AI to organically imbibe 'learning' from. It helps of course, to have arguably one of the best supercomputers in the world at your service.

The world's fastest AI supercomputer

For the purpose of their mission, OpenAI and NVIDIA will be using NVIDIA's DGX-1 supercomputer. The DGX-1 has been developed at a cost of about $2 billion, and it's essentially a bank of graphics chips optimized for deep learning. Data processing on these NVIDIA chips are super fast - at a peak of about 170 teraflops, or a billion arithmetic calculations per second. That's an insane level of performance.

OpenAI research scientist Ilya Sutskever also attested to the power that the DGX-1 packs in: The "DGX-1 is a huge advance. It will allow us to explore problems that were completely unexplored before, and it will allow us to achieve levels of performance that weren't achievable."

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Chief scientist at the Chinese Internet company Baidu, Andrew Ng, also gave a thumbs up to DGX-1, which his company also intends to use in the near future: "The capabilities it provides will allow us to try new ways of scaling our training process. This will allow us to train models on larger data sets, which we have found leads to progress in AI."

And any progress in AI is only good news for the scientific community. OpenAI Chief Technology Officer Greg Brockman sums it up when he says - "Artificial intelligence has the potential to be the most positive technology that humans ever create. It has the potential to unlock the solutions to problems that have really plagued us for a very long time."

First published: 18 August 2016, 14:59 IST