September 26-27, 2016
New York, NY

Unlock the power of AI: A fundamentally different approach to building intelligent systems

Mark Hammond (Microsoft)
3:45pm–4:25pm Monday, 09/26/2016
Implementing AI
Location: 3D08 Level: Intermediate
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Prerequisite knowledge

  • General experience with programming
  • What you'll learn

  • Explore a new way to think about programming artificial intelligence
  • See step-by-step how easy and quick it is to program artificial intelligence, even for those with no background in machine learning
  • Understand the features of Bonsai’s platform that make it a great tool for data scientists and statisticians who want to work at a deeper level
  • Description

    Building deep learning systems at present is part science, part art, and a whole lot of arcana. Rather than focusing on the concepts you want the system to learn and how those can be taught, you often find yourself dealing with low-level details like network topology and hyperparameters. It is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

    Databases solved this problem for data by allowing users to program at a higher level of abstraction. Databases eschew low-level implementation details and instead build a model of the information (the schema) using a high-level declarative programming language (such as SQL). The database server is then used to actualize this model and manage its usage with real data. Similarly, for artificial intelligence, one can build a model for conceptual understanding (the mental model) using a high-level declarative programming language (such as Inkling). An intelligence engine can then be used to actualize this model and manage its usage with real data.

    Mark Hammond explains how Bonsai’s platform enables every developer to add intelligence to their software or hardware, regardless of AI expertise. Bonsai’s suite of tools—a new programming language, AI engine, and cloud service—abstracts away the lowest-level details of programming AI, allowing developers to focus on concepts they want a system to learn and how those concepts can be taught. Mark explores the underpinnings of this technique, details the Inkling programming language, and demonstrates how to build, debug, and iteratively refine models. To make things concrete and fun, Mark demonstrates how to create a system to play the video game Breakout using deep learning (but requiring codifying only the high-level concepts relevant for intelligent play) and offers a curriculum for how to teach this system.

    Photo of Mark Hammond

    Mark Hammond


    Mark Hammond is cofounder and CEO at Bonsai. Mark has a deep passion for understanding how the mind works and has been thinking about AI throughout his career. He has held positions at Microsoft and numerous startups and in academia, including turns at Numenta and in the Yale Neuroscience Department. He holds a degree in computation and neural systems from Caltech.