Some of the most complex science mysteries we’re working on today may not be cracked by a human mind.
Brendan Frey, CIFAR senior fellow and professor of computer engineering at the University of Toronto, is working on a new kind of artificial intelligence (AI) called deep learning.
Old AI systems relied on logic (for example, if-then statements) to make decisions. These all needed to be programmed in. By contrast, deep learning immerses a computer system in data, and lets the computer itself look for patterns.
Modern data sets can be massive, and complex interactions can be difficult to interpret and understand. With enough computing power, deep learning could detect useful patterns that unlock what’s driving complicated systems.
This is a growing field of research in Canada. Frey is a co-founder of the non-profit Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a one-of-a-kind institute that will bring together leading AI researchers, acting as a hub and accelerator for startup companies.
Frey is interested in applying deep learning to look for patterns in life itself, probing genetics with an interdisciplinary group he founded called Deep Genomics.
“My group at Deep Genomics is putting together a system, an AI system, that really is allowing us to peer at your DNA, look at your mutations and figure out what’s wrong and how to treat the disease,” says Frey.
While we now have the technology to rapidly sequence the genome, what comes next remains mysterious; how the genome translates into the expression of biomolecules is not well understood. Frey calls this the genotype-phenotype gap, and closing that gap is needed to understand how genes encode life.
“We’re actually developing new therapies at Deep Genomics,” says Frey, “and that’s what I’m most excited about.”