Episode 26: A Conversation with Peter Lee

In this episode, Byron and Peter talk about defining intelligence, Venn diagrams, transfer learning, image recognition, and Xiaoice.

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Guest

Dr. Peter Lee is Corporate Vice President, AI & Research, at Microsoft. He is responsible for incubating research projects that lead to new products and services. Past and current projects span a wide range of technology areas, including: deep neural networks for computer vision and the simultaneous language translation feature in Skype; new silicon and post-silicon computer architectures for Microsoft’s cloud; experimental under-sea datacenters; augmented-reality experiences for HoloLens and VR devices; digital storage in DNA; social chatbots XiaoIce and Tay; and healthcare innovation.

Transcript

Byron Reese:  This is Voices in AI, brought to you by Gigaom. I’m Byron Reese. Today our guest is Peter Lee. He is a computer scientist and corporate Vice President at Microsoft Research. He leads Microsoft’s New Experiences and Technologies organization, or NExT, with the mission to create research powered technology and products and advance human knowledge through research. Prior to Microsoft, Dr. Lee held positions in both government and academia. At DARPA, he founded a division focused on R&D programs in computing and related areas. Welcome to the show, Peter.  

Peter Lee:  Thank you. It’s great to be here.  

I always like to start with a seemingly simple question which turns out not to be quite so simple. What is artificial intelligence? 

Wow. That is not a simple question at all. I guess the simple, one line answer is artificial intelligence is the science or the study of intelligent machines. And, I realize that definition is pretty circular, and I am guessing that you understand that that’s the fundamental difficulty, because it leaves open the question: what is intelligence? I think people have a lot of different ways to think about what is intelligence, but, in our world, intelligence is, “how do we compute how to set and achieve goals in the world.” And this is fundamentally what we’re all after, right now in AI. 

That’s really fascinating because you’re right, there is no consensus definition on intelligence, or on life, or on death for that matter. So, I would ask that question: why do you think we have such a hard time defining what intelligence is?