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Malaysian achieves success in artificial intelligence research

Monday April 25, 2005

Malaysian achieves success in artificial intelligence research

BY CHOI TUCK WO

LONDON: A young Malaysian PhD student has achieved a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence which can lead to the creation of “thinking robots” in five to 10 years.  

After three years of research, Dr M. Sethuraman, 26, has developed an evolutionary technique which has been hailed by the Robert Gordon University as of “world significance.”  

For his effort, the Klang-born son of a shopkeeper will be conferred a doctorate in Artificial Intelligence in July by the university in Aberdeen, Scotland – its first Malaysian student to receive such an honour.  

Dr Sethuraman said his ultimate goal was to create a robot that could “think, feel and behave like a human being.”  

“I can see that in five to 10 years, intelligent artificial species such as those seen in I.Robot, Terminator and Data from Star Trek will become a part of everyday life.”  

“Once you reach that level, anything is possible. That’s what I call real intelligence,” he said in an exclusive interview.  

Dr Sethuraman: ‘Intelligent artificial species will become a part of everyday life’
Dr Sethuraman said his research was based on an evolutionary process that allowed an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) – a microchip modelled on the human brain – to evolve in a modular fashion until real intelligence emerged.  

“Just like human beings, we can adapt to different environments. Until today, there is no technology to mimic this,” he said, referring to the evolution of man and animals in a changing environment.  

Dr Sethuraman, who has a First Class Honours degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering and a Master’s in Philosophy, is confident the technology to create “thinking robots” could be out within 10 years, depending on research funding.  

Dr Sethuraman, who has won numerous awards and presented his research at international conferences, thanked the university and his supervisor, Dr Christopher MacLeod for his work.  

“I also wish to dedicate my success to my mother (M. Ramayee) whose sacrifices has made it possible,” he said.  

When Dr Sethuraman was 12, his father died, leaving his mother to struggle to run a sundry store to support him and his younger brother, M. Valliapan, 24, who is due to study at the International Medical University in September.  

Dr MacLeod described Dr Sethuraman as his group’s best PhD student.  

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