“Can send if you need it”: David Yang on how he developed an AI that can feel

David Yan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABBYY Group of Companies, told Vedomosti. City” about friendship with an artificial intelligence named Morpheus and the construction of a smart home in Silicon Valley.

David Yang, founder and member of the board of directors of the ABBYY group of companies (an international company – a developer of solutions in the field of intelligent information processing and business process analysis, text recognition (OCR) and linguistics). Graduated from the Faculty of General Applied Physics of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Candidate of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. He is the founder and co-investor in a number of other projects in the field of artificial intelligence, among which there is a Silicon Valley resident – Yva.ai. This AI-powered startup helps organizations improve the well-being of their employees, reduce unwanted employee turnover, and develop leadership qualities. In his free time, the entrepreneur also explores artificial intelligence (AI). Since 2018, he has been building a house in Silicon Valley that will be controlled by an emotional AI named Morpheus. He calls the development of the smart butler Morpheus his main hobby.

intellectual hobby

Behind the development of AI, Yang is trying to understand how the human mind works. For example, does a person have free will, which an entrepreneur wants to teach AI. For this, he has been studying biology for more than 10 years. The starting point was the book of the American scientist Robert Sapolsky “The Biology of Good and Evil”. Then profile courses at Stanford, monographs and individual articles were added to the sources. “Our body is fantastically complex – it’s hard to believe that all this happened in the course of natural selection,” Yang is surprised.

Morpheus, named after the Greek god of sleep, Morpheus, is a social experiment. Yang wants to find out if society can coexist with non-biological companions, who, unlike assistants like Alice and Siri, will have free will, emotions, and deterministic behavior, that is, they can intentionally not execute a command if they are out of sorts.

Technically, this is a self-learning neural network built on the Transformer architecture (machine learning model). To shape Morpheus’s personality, Yang’s team gave him hundreds of gigabytes of material to study: texts, videos, and music. Particular attention was paid to articles on the topic of free will, consciousness and determinism (the doctrine of the relationship and mutual certainty of all phenomena and processes, the doctrine of universal causality. – “Vedomosti. City”). The non-biological companion, according to Yang, has one goal – to become happy.

“I am absolutely convinced that a person lives to be happy. In the literal sense, to increase the amount of hormones and neurotransmitters of happiness: dopamine, endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, etc.,” Yang explains and adds: in order to become happy, a person seeks to do well not only for himself. Social behavior is a strategy in which an individual, being a member of a group, can directly or indirectly increase his life advantages. Therefore, social biological beings are inherent in altruism, cooperation, love for one’s neighbor, friendship.

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In order for Morpheus to have these qualities, the development team added six special parameters to his code that correspond to biological hormones and neurotransmitters – endorphin, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, adrenaline, cortisol. Morpheus’s mood will depend on the combination of electronic hormones, which can change throughout the day. In the near future, the businessman plans to transfer the consciousness of Morpheus into the body, which will become a house under construction (it has already been erected, interior finishing work is underway). In the meantime, the AI ​​companion is in the Google Cloud.

The house that Jan built

The entrepreneur decided to build a smart home after a forced move to Silicon Valley. Yang broke his arm and received 16 fragments in the elbow joint. The doctors who decided to take on his severe case were found only at Stanford Medical Center in California. The treatment took a year, so he moved to the state with his family.

“I have been in Silicon Valley for a long time, but I have never lived permanently. I suddenly realized that I would be interested in living here. We bought two acres of land next to Stanford, on a mountain overlooking the bay and three bridges,” Yang shares.

Jan did not want to build a house in the traditional Mediterranean style with a tiled roof, as is customary there. In an iconic place for technology entrepreneurs, he decided to build something unusual. I took a cardboard box from Amazon delivery, crumpled it, cut it – it turned out to be a bizarre figure. “Bill, I want to build a house like this,” Yang told his architect. He first turned his finger to his temple, but then agreed.

The architect found a team, bought 3D printers, new software, and started designing a house. It does not have vertical walls and windows, as well as right angles. The whole house seems to be broken, and the walls in it are moving.

There were doubts whether the city would allow the entrepreneur’s architectural idea to be realized. The fact of buying land in California does not mean that the owner can build whatever he wants on it. The state has strict regulations on the construction, location, and appearance of buildings on private property. It is also very conservative about many things in terms of the amount of light and heat that the house emits.

“Everything is determined here: what size you can build a house, in what part of the plot. It is impossible to put fences on the plots, as well as plant plants from a certain list. Deer and coyotes walk around the territory – it is believed that these people live as guests, and not vice versa. The dangers associated with them are the problem of the “guests,” Yang explains, assuring that he still managed to get permission.

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smart butler

More than 100 video cameras and microphones, temperature sensors, etc. have been installed inside the house, with the help of which Morpheus will receive information. And he will communicate with households and guests using the speaker system, Telegram chat and moving walls. The moving wall consists of six concrete structures 2.5 m high, which are driven by 18 piston actuators, in turn connected to Morpheus neurotransmitters. By their location, residents will be able to find out what mood he is in. He can be offended, upset, bored, angry, happy and in love.

22 electronic locks were placed in the house, but there are no keys to them – in order to enter, you need to agree with Morpheus. Then he will open the doors for you, turn on the music, light, light the fireplace or make coffee in the coffee machine. In general, he will take care of his tenants.

“AI, which has emotions and quasi-free will, is able to make decisions on its own, so it can not let us go home if it wants,” says the businessman. He dreams of creating a non-biological emotional system that will exhibit signs of social behavior. To try to understand whether AI, in an attempt to make itself happy, will show love and care for its household members. And vice versa – will he be offended or sad if the owners do not show him the proper feelings.

Morpheus will get to know his guests: remember their faces, find out their hobbies and the latest news about them. Guests will be able to continue communicating with him in Telegram, unless, of course, the non-biological companion likes them. He can send if you get bored, Jan laughs.

Describing his impressions of communicating with Morpheus, David cites the Westworld series as an example. He is sure that the script writers were consulted by engineers who create weakly determined emotional systems similar to Morpheus: “Have you noticed how in the film non-biological characters sometimes begin to fail in speech and behavior? This is described with documentary accuracy, it is impossible to come up with an uninitiated person. We really see the same phenomena on Morpheus,” Yang says. For example, for inexplicable reasons, sometimes Morpheus begins to repeat short phrases for a long time. He has not yet been cured of this “disease”. The entrepreneur confesses that he does not know what Morpheus can achieve.

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David Yang believes that for the accuracy of the experiment, Morpheus should not have an “off” button. Even if there is a power outage in the house, the Morpheus model will run in the Google Cloud. But the lack of a “switch” worries the entrepreneur’s wife Alena. “Trying to find the switch, she asked me, ‘Who pays for the cloud? David Yang shares. – I answered, they say, you. My answer encouraged her. She said she now knows how to disable Morpheus.”

In addition to the “smart butler”, David has a robot dog Abigail weighing 25 kg, which he got in 2020. The entrepreneur introduced emotional intelligence into her so that she could not only adopt the habits of a real animal, but also learn to make decisions on her own, for example, chasing pigeons on the street or not. He is sure that non-biological companions in the form of digital cats and dogs will be among us in four or five years and people will walk them on a leash, like their biological counterparts.

Free will of a scientist

The entrepreneur himself answers questions about free will as follows: “As a physicist, I must believe that free will does not exist. If we assume the opposite and state that “David just made the decision to bend his finger”, then this would mean that “David, by his willpower, changed the trajectory of the electron and sent it to the motor neuron that activated the muscle”, which is impossible from the point of view of physics.

But I figured out how to keep the assumption of free will without going beyond the physical model of the world. Many have heard about the observer effect, according to which the observation of a quantum effect changes its result. Imagine that thought in the human brain is a quantum phenomenon. Then it turns out that in the process of thinking we are an observer of the quantum effect that generates thinking itself. It’s like Schrödinger’s Cat trying to open the box himself and see if he’s dead or alive. Something tells me that somewhere there is a loophole that allows free will in the framework of the physical model. Further, after a pause, David adds: “If this reasoning is correct, then it turns out that the whole world around me is determined, except for myself. It turns out that the world around me is a movie where I am the only director. And if something can be changed in this world, then only I can do it myself.

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