The Fifth Elephant 2015

A conference on data, machine learning, and distributed and parallel computing

Shailesh Kumar


"Thinking Machines"

Submitted Jul 8, 2015

To explore the key building blocks of Artificial Intellgence: “Understanding”, “Learning”, “Thinking”, and “Creativity”.


Ever since the dawn of civilization humans have been trying to “extend” themselves through “machines” - tools to hunt animals stronger than us, telescopes to see farther than our eyes, cranes to lift more than our hands, cars to move faster than our legs, and computers to store and process more information than ever before. The epitome of this “extension”, the dream (or nightmare) of Artificial Intelligence, is to create a “Thinking Machine” that replicates or even surpasses our brain’s ability to:

(a) “Understand” the data it receives,

(b) “Learn” compositional and causal structures in it,

(c) “Reason” over these structures, and even

(d) “Create” new data using the “model” of the world it has learnt.

Such a machine could, for example, have a human like conversation, solve complex problems, predict the next scene in a video, find a cure for cancer, prove Fermat’s last theorem, or even create art or poetry some day. Advances made in machine learning, natural language understanding, speech recognition and synthesis, computer vision, and deep learning have brought us to the brink of such a possibility! We can already see glimpses of such “thinking machines” - the self driving cars, the jeopardy winning Watson, and the recent “paintings” created from deep vision networks (

In this talk, we will explore both the philosophical and algorithmic aspects of building such a “Thinking Machine”. More specifically, we will explore some hypothese on how we:

(a) learn, represent, and disambiguate senses of words without knowing the grammar of a language?

(b) analyze knowledge from langauge and synthesize language from knowledge?

(c) reason over this knowledge to solve complex problems and innovate new ideas?

(d) can build better machine translation and conversation systems using some of these building blocks?


An Open Mind, a “healthy disregard for the impossible”, and an urge to remove the word “fiction” from “science fiction”!

Speaker bio


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