“You don’t solve the human, you solve the problem.”

- Suman Kanuganti

Being Human

Humans forget. It’s part of what makes us human and striving to remember has shaped a tremendous amount about how we live.

Think about that for a moment. Think of all the things in our lives that we’ve created or that we do because of our imperfect memory. The origin of written language was to help us remember financial transactions. We carry little notebooks to remember our ideas. The invention of photography was inspired by wanting to remember visual scenes. Statues, pyramids, and buildings have been built to remember rulers and past legacies. Maps help us remember how to navigate places we’ve been to before. Innumerable religious and secular holidays serve to commemorate, to remember events in history. Interestingly, there’s also research to suggest that there’s a purpose to forgetting, though. Forgetting helps us reason and understand by forcing us to generalize and abstract.

While forgetting has led to incredible things, both profound and mundane, it also causes us no end of frustration and even catastrophe. Memory loss can even lead to us forgetting who we are and has otherwise resulted in untold tragic loss. This is why humanity has worked so hard to combat it.

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Cognitive Technologies

Many examples I listed above are what can be termed cognitive technologies: things we’ve developed to augment our brain’s function. Writing is a cognitive technology that augments our ability to remember and also our ability to communicate. Coffee is a fun little cognitive technology that enhances our concentration and alertness and has been credited with launching the Renaissance in Europe. Other cognitive technologies to help with memory include number systems, dictation machines, the computer, and even giving something a name has been shown to improve people’s memory for the concepts they represent.

At its core, memory retention is a biological problem. But instead of focusing on fixing people with brain enhancement drugs or surgical implants, why not build a tool to solve the problem? Imagine a tool that can capture spoken conversations and written thoughts throughout the day and create a personal digital memory bank. We believe that key emerging technological trends can do that, most importantly artificial intelligence. We now have the ability to transform digital data into rich digital memories, preserved and available to recall forever. The compelling design challenge is how do you “remember” this digital memory? What sort of cognitive technology do we need?

The problem with the existing tools and methods of today is that the information you’re capturing is already lossy because you have already started forgetting pieces of the information you learned when you go to write it down. And, think about all the times you’ve tried to find information in notebooks, productivity apps and so on. Estimates suggest that 20% of our workday is spent searching for information, not to mention time spent capturing it. Our goal in our approach is to reduce the time people spend looking for information by creating an ambient recall experience. This experience should be effortless, in the moment, and require little action from the user.

We search for information but we recall our memories.

- Suman Kanuganti

Science-Fiction or Reality

For inspiration, consider the following bits of science fiction:

  • Black Mirror: “The Entire History of You” — Grain technology records people’s audiovisual senses, allowing them and others to re-watch their memories.
  • Black Mirror: “Be Right Back” — Technology now allows people to communicate with artificial intelligence built from loved ones’ online communications and social media profiles. Eventually, there is an embodied version, a robot.
  • Neuromancer — Among many other harbingers of the future, this seminal cyberpunk novel explores a future where people’s consciousness can be connected and uploaded to the matrix, a precursor to the internet.
  • HAL 9000 in 2001, Samantha in Her, KITT in Knight Rider, Max Headroom, WOPR from WarGames, etc — Computers that are interacted with conversationally and have many human-like traits, like personalities and desires.
  • Altered Carbon — Your entire memory is stored in your Stack chip that integrates with your mind seamlessly allowing people to transfer from one body to another.

Distilled, we can highlight a number of key features of what artists have imagined what the next generation of memory augmentation could look like:

  1. Ubiquitous Multi-Modal Capture of Experiences — Capture all senses we experience and perhaps even our thoughts and emotions.
  2. Meaningful Abstraction and Reasoning — Don’t just capture the raw data, but understand the data in a way that allows us to query it, find it, interact with it, and perhaps even learn from it.
  3. Ambient Presence — Accessible any time, any place.
  4. Natural Human-Computer Interaction — The closer it is like interacting with a human, the better. Indeed, the pinnacle of this may be a digital copy of ourselves with all our memories.

In other words, the ultimate goal is a representation of you and your memories that you can interact with like a human being.

So where are we, in terms of technology, in achieving each of these?

Ubiquitous Multi-Modal Capture: We can currently capture anything that can be sensed — particularly sounds and images, but not thoughts and emotion. The limitations here are mainly bandwidth and storage.

Meaningful Abstraction and Reasoning: Some of the technology is quite advanced. Object recognition can do an excellent job of parsing a scene for objects. Automatic Speech Recognition can get within 5% error rate of understanding the words in an audio stream. Classifiers have reached pretty high rates of doing things like identifying relevant entities, classifying text in any number of useful ways and extracting meaningful summarizations. Where it certainly falls short is genuine Artificial General Intelligence and reasoning.

Ambient Presence: With cloud computing, you can access unlimited computing resources with a phone and a cellular data plan.

Natural Human-Computer Interaction: While we don’t quite have Her or HAL, technologies like Alexa and Siri have gotten pretty far in creating a way to communicate naturally with computers. No longer do you need to know how to code, or even click, to do something like find out the weather or the Red Sox score. You can just ask.

Personal.ai

This is why we, at Personal.ai, all came together, with the mission to build an AI for each individual to augment human biological memory; the vision to change how we humans fundamentally retain, recall, and relive our own memories. At the core are the principles that represent who we are and what we are building: meaningful, authentic, transparent and inclusive. We feel responsible for spearheading this mission in creating a personal AI for everyone. 

We are a collective of entrepreneurs, technologists, scientists, and creatives who are passionate about pushing beyond the bounds of conventional thinking and using technology to solve human problems - memory retention and recall. 

Capture, Create, Connect

Our solution is at the same time pretty simple, yet quite complex. One core use case for Personal AI is to record your memories and make them readily accessible to browse and recall. You can ask what the insightful thoughts are from a conversation, the name of your friend’s spouse you met the week before, or the Berkeley restaurant recommendation you got last month. Personal AI creates a digital long term memory that is structured and lasts forever.

To build your intranet of memories, we capture the memories that you say, type, or see, and transform them into Memory Blocks in real time. This architecture is inspired by a neuroscientific understanding of human memory - memories as semi-structured multi-modal interconnected graphs of knowledge. The Memory Blocks are stored in a Memory Stack that is private to an individual and well secured. Every human is unique, every human’s Memory Stack represents the identity of the individual. We build an AI that is trained entirely on top of one individual human being’s memories so it is authentic to them.

Personal AI is build from 3 core components:

  1. Personal AI Capture is a set of tools to sync your stream of thoughts and life as it happens everyday. It's not designed to replace your existing methods of note taking, meeting recordings, or smartphone captures, but designed to “add” a new method to ambiently capture your stream of thought that otherwise would be forgotten/lost.
  2. Personal AI Create is a set of AI micro models that transforms the raw inputs of spoken, written and seen digitally at any given time and structures them into Memory Blocks. A Memory Block is composed of extracted and predicted information from the raw data which personal AI models are trained on.
  3. Personal AI Connect is a set of APIs to interact with personal AIs, either your own or others’, implemented in a messaging style interface to access an AI. The built-in messaging interface enables bidirectional communication with AIs where one can connect and interact with an AI in natural language and vice versa (AI sending messages to a person).

Equitable AI

Building a purely functioning product isn’t enough. Part of our goal is to empower all humans with the benefits of equitable AI as an inalienable right; an AI that is built from each individual's memories and that is private. Our ultimate goal is to benefit individual human lives by retaining memories so they can be effortlessly and, more importantly, securely recalled.

When we are building technology that simulates the human mind, it begins with the responsibility and principles that align with human rights. We recognize that personal AIs of individuals will have huge implications for our society and we must be intentional about aligning ourselves with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) standards for human rights. There are a lot of complex unanswered questions that require more nuanced answers than slogans. When thinking about some of these questions, we kept coming back, not necessarily to finals answers, but to who we thought should be involved in the conversation. The stakeholders beyond the profit makers.

Over the past decade, the commercialization of the Internet has evolved into the business of data ownership. Successful businesses benefited from aggregating and owning large amounts of data and tech giants have made trillions off of this way of thinking about data and AI.  They did this by providing free products to the consumers in exchange for their data, often leading to exploiting the engagement behaviors of consumers. 

This, along with the bias in data and the methods used in current machine learning represent what we see as the limitations of centralized AI models - AI models created on the aggregated data of many individuals. We believe the macro trends of Web 3.0 and the decentralization of data ownership is changing the dynamics of AI services, however, which will lead to the economic benefits shifting from tech conglomerates to individuals. 

Here are the 3 key issues we are addressing in this macro environment with an approach to building personal AIs that strengthens the connections between people: 

  1. Decentralization of ownership establishes trust through self-sovereignty of data: The shift in data ownership from a centralized institutional authority to individual data ownership is a perfect framework for thinking about how Personal.ai can respect and protect the privacy of individual memories. We are building on Web 3.0 technologies optimizing for self-sovereignty of data differentiating from Web 2.0 technologies optimized for corporate sovereignty. We are addressing the issues of privacy beyond digital consent to give individuals some form of sovereign control over their identity and the use of their personal data in the form of their personal AIs. 
  2. Decentralization of AI establishes authenticity and human rights by removing bias in aggregated models: In the past decade, AI models were trained on large amounts of aggregated data to extract value and insights for corporate interests ($2.9T AI market). This framework has led to major issues with bias and with truth and accuracy in these models. Decentralization of AI means shifting and bringing value to people so that advances in AI serve all people (IEEE) rather than benefiting specific groups, nations or a corporation.Central to this is practicing the values of transparency and accountability.
  3. Decentralization of the economy facilitates monetary benefits to individuals by tokenization of personal AI utility: The top 5 companies in the US make up 20% of the S&P market. Centralized data ownership and centralized AI models have disrupted the idea of an equitable society and increased the economic gap amongst people. The advent of decentralization technologies such as blockchain and decentralizing the monetization of individuals’ assets as NFTs has already shifted the economic dynamic in the art and music industry. We are leveraging these tokenization frameworks to extend beyond today's where people can monetize their own AIs for their economic benefit. The Web 3.0 revolution enables a positive-sum ecosystem for people and the communities around them. 

We are spearheading a new generation of technology that has the potential to positively impact how humans live and enjoy their lives and the societies around them in our digital future. Our dream is that one day you, the people around you, and the entirety of humanity will have access to their own individual AI to extend their memory capacity and uplift their lives that further unlocks the potential of humans without the limitations of time and capacity.

We recognize there are lots of deep questions around this and we welcome challenging conversations about it. Thank you for allowing us to take you a bit deeper into our thoughts on why we are building personal AIs for everyone. 

Truly, The Founding Team:
Suman Kanuganti
Sharon Zhang
Kristie Kaiser
Marc Ettlinger

*Other relevant links in this pending updates this week

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