“While most people were taking baby steps, they took a giant leap into the unknown,” says Risto Miikkulainen, a computer scientist at the University of Texas, Austin, who was not involved with the work. “This is one of those papers that could launch a lot of future research.” Building an AI algorithm takes time. Take neural networks, a common type of machine learning used for translating languages and driving cars. These networks loosely mimic the structure of the brain and learn from training data by altering the strength of connections between artificial neurons. Smaller subcircuits of neurons carry out specific tasks—for instance spotting road signs—and researchers can spend months working out how to connect them so they work together seamlessly.