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Home » With Spatial Intelligence, AI Will Understand The Real World: Fei-Fei Li (Transcript)

With Spatial Intelligence, AI Will Understand The Real World: Fei-Fei Li (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of AI pioneer Fei-Fei Li’s talk titled “With Spatial Intelligence, AI Will Understand The Real World” at TED 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


The World 540 Million Years Ago

Let me show you something. To be precise, I’m going to show you nothing. This was the world 540 million years ago. Pure, endless darkness.

It wasn’t dark due to a lack of light. It was dark because of a lack of sight. Although sunshine did filter 1,000 meters beneath the surface of ocean, a light permeated from hydrothermal vents to seafloor, brimming with life, there was not a single eye to be found in these ancient waters. No retinas, no corneas, no lenses.

So all this light, all this life went unseen. There was a time that the very idea of seeing didn’t exist. It had simply never been done before. Until it was.

The Emergence of Trilobites

So for reasons we’re only beginning to understand, trilobites, the first organisms that could sense light, emerged. They’re the first inhabitants of this reality that we take for granted. First to discover that there is something other than oneself. A world of many selves.

The ability to see is thought to have ushered in Cambrian explosion, a period in which a huge variety of animal species entered fossil records. What began as a passive experience, the simple act of letting light in, soon became far more active. The nervous system began to evolve. Sight turning to insight.

Understanding led to actions. And all these gave rise to intelligence. Today, we’re no longer satisfied with just nature’s gift of visual intelligence. Curiosity urges us to create machines to see just as intelligently as we can, if not better.

The Convergence of Neural Networks, GPUs, and Big Data

Nine years ago, on this stage, I delivered an early progress report on computer vision, a subfield of artificial intelligence. Three powerful forces converged for the first time. A family of algorithms called neural networks. Fast, specialized hardware called graphic processing units, or GPUs. And big data.

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