Allen Institute
Paul Allen and Bill GatesPaul Allen is a very rich man.  (He’s the one with the beard, which he got rid of some years ago.)  He’s apparently worth $15 billion or so, which is what can happen when you help start a company like Microsoft.  He has long been a major investor in brain research, and he’s just announced a major push into artificial intelligence.  He has hired the experienced and respected AI academic Dr Oren Etzioni from the University of Washington to run AI2 – the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

A decade ago, Allen’s venture capital firm Vulcan embarked on the creation of a “Digital Aristotle” – a computer that contains large amounts of knowledge in machine-computable form that can answer questions, explain those answers, and discuss those answers with users.  In other words, the “Digital Aristotle” would be a computer embodiment of an insightful teacher.

Allen has not announced any targets for what AI2 will produce and by when, nor how much money he will pump into it, but he has already provided $400m for his brain research institute, so it won’t be peanuts.

€1bn for Henry Markram’s Human Brain Project, $300m and counting for Obama’s BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative, plus whatever Google and IBM are is spending.  Pretty soon we’ll be talking real money.

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