One of the biggest global players in artificial intelligence (AI) is Google and their high-tech Brain division has been pushing the envelope for years.
Now scientists working for their AutoML project have a new paper in which they claim to be developing algorithms that can evolve on their own without human input. Even more stunning is their claim that they can induce “mutations” into new generations of algorithms, which mimics principles of Darwinian evolution, namely “survival of the fittest.”
The team started with one of the most basic ideas in modern AI: machine learning. Machine learning tools allow us to use algorithms to search through massive troves of data and quickly identify patterns. But the traditional problem with this method is the element of human bias.
As the team paper states:
“Human-designed components bias the search results in favor of human-designed algorithms, possibly reducing the innovation potential of AutoML. Innovation is also limited by having fewer options: you cannot discover what you cannot search for.”
To bypass this problem, the team wanted to develop a system by which AI can grow on its own.
The team used simple math equations to develop machine learning algorithms that author 100 “candidate algorithms.” These candidates compete using basic machine learning tools like neural network image differentiation tests and the best-performing algorithms then mutated, or evolved, via random code alteration.
The system can cull through tens of thousands of algorithms each second in search of a solution while dismissing “evolutionary dead-ends” and duplicates. Over multiple generations, the process grows a library of high-performance algorithms. According to the Google team, these new algorithms have already reproduced decades worth of human-led AI discoveries in only days.
Perhaps most astonishingly, the new AI algorithmic evolution is able to eliminate the problem of human bias that is often introduced during data input. The AutoML-Zero can essentially “automatically discover” unknown algorithms and develop new previously undiscovered AI programs without any human intervention, using only basic mathematical concepts.
Haran Jackson, the chief technology officer (CTO) at Techspert, explains why the new paper is so interesting:
“As exciting as AutoML is, it is restricted to finding top-performing algorithms out of the, admittedly large, assortment of algorithms that we already know of. There is a sense amongst many members of the community that the most impressive feats of artificial intelligence will only be achieved with the invention of new algorithms that are fundamentally different to those that we as a species have so far devised.
“This is what makes the aforementioned paper so interesting. It presents a method by which we can automatically construct and test completely novel machine learning algorithms.”
As noted before, the scientists say the AI programs can improve upon each previous generation, producing a kind of “survival of the fittest” that resembles Darwin’s view of evolution in natural biological systems.
While much testing and review still await the Google team, their new paper, titled “Evolving Machine Learning Algorithms From Scratch,” suggests the tantalizing, albeit unnerving likelihood that AI of the future will be designed by other AI machines.
One can only impishly guess at what self-replicating AI algorithms evolving on their own will mean for the future of life on Earth.