Nearly 25 years ago, Steve Deng, an undergraduate student studying electrical engineering at Tsinghua University, read something that forever changed the way he thought about networks and the nature of intelligence. It was a quote by Nobel Laureate Francis Crick:
You’, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.
The insight Crick inspired was that network interactions across distributed systems, even of very simple units, could result in a truly astounding emergent intelligence. This categorical shift in perspective laid the groundwork for a number of breakthroughs in the career of the man who would become the Matrix AI Network’s Chief AI Scientist: from early innovations in parallel computing to leverage global processing capabilities, to pioneering capabilities in Industrial IoT, to creating real-time diagnostic information in high-speed rail systems, to building new forms of actionable intelligence across cities.
One current area of focus for the Yangdong Artificial Intelligence Institute includes expanding the Matrix AI Network architecture for applications in smart cities by partnering with established industry players specializing in equipment like smart edge devices. The baseline for designing smart cities systems starts from conducting needs analysis with civic departments working on the frontlines to understand what disbursed data could be monitored more efficiently. Smart city networks can provide a real-time centralized view of resource flow across cities, regions, or even nations. This has the potential to create dynamic data-driven intelligence for public safety diagnostics, risk management, faster optimization of resource allocation, and forecasting.
Networked systems tied to operational metrics clearly constitute “smart systems” whose capabilities and efficiency already greatly eclipse gains from multiplying human efforts. According to Deng’s roadmap, this is a springboard to a new form of intelligence. “A higher order of value isn’t created until the networked system doesn’t simply lower costs and enable better coverage; it must create new forms of operational intelligence that weren’t possible before,” says Deng.
The roadmap for realizing new kinds of city-wide networked intelligence requires a secure, interoperable and high-performance digital infrastructure. The Matrix AI Network is emerging as a new class of technology provider in this multi-participant tri-sector landscape. The Matrix team is systematically building a robust public/permissioned distributed computing infrastructure that can match or outperform existing enterprise systems. City-wide networked intelligence also requires a more ambitious scope for big data; it requires collecting the richest possible repository of multi-dimensional data. Deng explains, “higher-order executive functions in the brain like visuospatial processing, language, working memory, and planning only become possible by orchestrating different subprocesses across multiple specialized regions of the brain. My team and I have experience designing custom hardware/software solutions, including field-specific sensors and equipment for data gathering and optimized AI models for advanced processing. We could view these like specialized system, roughly analogous to a brain region. The greater vision for AI-powered networks capable of truly transformative intelligence is to orchestrate data across multiple smart systems into something greater than the sum of its parts.”
Shaping and mastering powerful system-level intelligence will present demands for new kinds of systems creativity that are currently hard to fathom. “Discovery and design of city-wide, economy-wide, or even global intelligences could become a very exciting area for collaboration between researchers and new AI models. The Matrix AI Network is focused on expanding and enhancing the building blocks to power this networked intelligence across digital and traditional infrastructure.” says Deng.