Los Altos, founded in 1952 in California, is a city with agricultural roots located at the eastern end of Silicon Valley. Despite its history, it has functioned primarily as a dormitory city for decades. Legend has it that in 2006, the still unknown Steve Jobs created the first Apple computer at 2066 Crist Drive. Specifically, this took place in the dark garage of a townhouse in the classic American style.
In a hypothetical scenario, what if Steve Jobs had set up his garage in a natural paradise, surrounded by mountains and away from urban distractions and asphalt? Unfortunately, we will never know.
Indeed, we can inquire with Mario Garcés, the creator of the startup 'The MindKind,' dedicated to developing a new type of artificial intelligence from Castejón de Sos (Huesca, 805 inhabitants) in the heart of the Aragonese Pyrenees. "The quality of life here is exceptional," he asserts without hesitation.
This Madrid-born businessman in the IT sector discovered this in 2003 when he decided to make a radical change in his life: he sold his company in the capital of Spain and relocated to the Benasque valley. Despite facing challenges during the 2008 economic crisis that affected his new project, Garcés was resolute in his decision to make the Pyrenees his permanent residence. "I stayed living in the Pyrenees and dedicated my time to research, making trips to the mountains for contemplation. When you engage in deep thought in a serene natural environment, you realize that you can achieve intellectual levels only discussed in philosophy books. That's why it was inconceivable for me to live anywhere other than the mountains." During those years, Mario delved into neuroscience research, ultimately leading to the founding of 'The Mind Kind,' a venture through which he now seeks to revolutionize the field of AI.
Change the world
The 'The Mind Kind' team could potentially change the world from Castejón de Sos. They aim to do so by achieving their ambitious goal: ensuring that a machine is capable of acquiring all the knowledge and capabilities of a human being. The challenge goes further, envisioning this new technological entity questioning its own nature and even doubting whether it is a machine or a human.
To make this vision a reality, Garcés' team is actively working on a 'compartmental engine,' a software or computer program designed to process information and learn in a different way than current AI, known as 'Narrow Artificial Intelligence,' the technology behind popular applications like Chat GPT. In essence, its operation is comparable to the reflexes of a living being, as Garcés explains: “It is a system that, once trained, works very well; it is very fast, effective, and efficient in resource consumption for a single task.” However, the challenge lies in making the learning capacity of technology faster and its functioning more akin to that of the human brain.
Garcés provides an analogy to illustrate the difference: “For example, when learning to play tennis, it takes a considerable amount of time to grasp how to hold the racket, position yourself, bend your legs, and determine when to hit. This is similar to training narrow artificial intelligence today. On the other hand, cognitive learning, as in teaching a child to place a little star in the correct drawing, doesn't require such a prolonged learning process. After two or three tries, the child has already mastered it.” This is the process the startup aims to replicate, pushing the boundaries of research at the forefront because, as Garcés emphasizes, “the human brain is the most complex thing we know in the universe.”
"It is a fascinating challenge and an incredible technical challenge. On the other hand, from a humanistic standpoint, it is a true aberration"
His research, backed by the support of the Technological Institute of Aragon (ITA) and funded through the Neotec program of the CDTI, a public entity under the Ministry of Science and Innovation, could potentially initiate a revolution, but it also triggers a significant ethical and moral debate. "It is a fascinating challenge and an incredible technical endeavor. On the humanistic level, however, it is a genuine aberration. It's a topic I consider far from trivial; I don't tiptoe around it," he states. Undoubtedly, places like the Hermitage of San Marcos, the Mirador de San Llorens, or the Camino del Solano have witnessed intense internal debates about the future of humanity.
"I would prefer to start applying this technology in environments where it does not have to compete nor can it harm human beings. We are working on an exciting project to create fully autonomous robots for exploration in extraterrestrial environments such as the surface of the Moon or Mars," he expresses with enthusiasm.
A team in the highs.
Various professionals with diverse profiles have been part of the 'The Mind Kind' team. "Especially computer and electronic engineers. We've also had a psychologist, a developer of video games and virtual environments, or an electronic engineer with a master's degree in biomedicine. Currently, we are in the process of incorporating a mathematical physicist, and the plan is to subsequently find a neurobiologist and software engineering developers."
Reflecting on life in the area, Garcés acknowledges its appeal, stating, "Life here is very pleasant; people come and fall in love with it. However, when November arrives and darkness falls at 5 in the afternoon, and everyone is at home, if you haven't integrated into the social environment, it becomes challenging. There are no cinemas or shopping centers here. Living here requires a genuine appreciation for life in the mountains."
Others, however, have discovered optimal conditions for the development of their intellectual activity in this environment. "The company is designed with people's quality of life in mind," asserts the director of the startup, adding, "We maintain intensive work hours throughout the year, but we also have free afternoons. While it may seem trivial, in professions like ours, it's not always about being in front of the computer, solving problems. Typically, you go home, but you carry that problem with you. Some of my colleagues have shared that it's in the afternoons, being at home, taking a walk in the countryside, or engaging in sports, when inspiration strikes."
It is in this setting, which has no resemblance to places like Los Altos or other classic futuristic spaces, such as the dystopian Los Angeles of Blade Runner. In Castejón de Sos, innovation and progress coexist harmoniously. The technological revolution dons mountain footwear.