John Carmack—the pioneering video game programmer, rocket engineer, and VR visionary who held posts as CTO at Oculus and consulting CTO at Meta—founded Dallas-based Keen Technologies in 2022 to pursue his next big quest: artificial general intelligence. On Monday, he announced a partnership aimed at bringing greater focus and urgency to the creation of AGI.
Carmack is partnering with Richard Sutton, chief scientific advisor at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute in Canada. Sutton—the principal founder of the field of reinforcement learning—will work with Carmack to advance “previously announced research priorities to understand basic computational intelligence,” the Alberta institute said in a news release.
Through that work, Sutton is seeking to understand and create “long-lived computation agents that interact with a vastly more complex world and come to predict and control their sensory input signals,” the institute said.
The newly announced partnership is “the first public milestone for Keen Technologies,” the institute noted, following news that Keen raised $20 million in August 2022.
Keen’s initial $20 million round was led by Nat Friedman, Danial Gross, Patrick Collision, Tobi Lutke, Jim Keller, Sequoia Capital, and Capital Factory. Carmack launched Keen in the wake of his December 2021 departure as consulting CTO at Meta, a post he left to focus his efforts on AGI.
Focusing on themes of ‘agency and the temporal’
Carmack says the AI space “is awash in capital, compute, and data, but it’s still dominated by fashions that may yet hinder important breakthroughs.”
“Rich and I both stand somewhat outside the mainstream, with a focus on agency and the temporal as central themes,” Carmack added in a statement. “Rich’s body of work was formative to my AI education; being able to work directly with him is an unexpected delight.”
Sutton cited both their differences and their shared mission in lauding the partnership.
“I’m excited to partner with John and the rest of the team at Keen Technologies,” Sutton said in a statement. “John is a powerful intellect and one of the world’s greatest system engineers. We have different backgrounds and strengths but a common view of what is needed to understand and create an artificial mind.”
Aiming for a prototype with ‘AGI signs of life’ by 2030
Carmack and Sutton are “deeply focused” on developing a genuine AI prototype by 2030, the announcement said—”including establishing, advancing, and documenting AGI signs of life.”
Earlier this month, Carmack was a keynote speaker at the Future of AI Summit hosted by the Capital Factory Texas Fund at the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
Carmack was featured on the cover of the 2023 Dallas Innovates magazine. You can read a version of the Q&A from that article here.
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