Exploring artificial intelligence

  • Education
  • Sunday, 23 Oct 2016

MANY believe that computers will take over the world. Hollywood blockbusters like Terminator and The Space Odyssey enforce that credence.

But Dr Joseph Manning, who leads the Department of Computer Science at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, was at UCSI University (UCSI) to explain why that will never happen.

Speaking to students from UCSI’s School of IT on ‘What Computers Can Never Do’, Dr Manning said computers have non-computable functions such as the post correspondence and halting problems.

These simple algorithms confuse them because they are unable to analyse different pieces of data and relate them to each other.

These problems are mathematical proof that computers cannot perform abstract reasoning, no matter how fast or how much memory the computer may have. This effectively ends any notion of computers achieving full consciousness and spelling the end of the human race.

“Many believe that computers are all-powerful, and to a certain extent, it is true.

“They can do amazing things but thinking in an abtract manner is conclusively beyond their scope,” said Dr Manning.

He also spoke about the demand for computer scientists in Ireland, which, in the recent years has established itself as a global technology hub that has attracted tech giants like Google, Facebook, IBM, Intel and Microsoft.

“The beauty of a computer science qualification is that you can work anywhere in the world.

“Computers know no borders; they abide by the same rules and contexts wherever you are, unlike law or medicine. It’s very flexible,” he said.

And while some people perceive computer science to be technical and logic-oriented, Dr Manning said out-of-the-box ideas carry equal weight.

“A good example is Facebook. About 12 years ago, using computers to send messages sounded crazy, but here we are with Facebook being an incredible success.

“So you’ll need a good amount of creativity and imagination to invent new computer functions,” he said.

Dr Manning’s guest lecture was followed by a meeting with UCSI vice-chancellor and president Senior Prof Datuk Dr Khalid Yusoff, deputy vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Zainuddin and UCC international coordinator Dr Christopher Shepard, who facilitated the partnership between UCSI and UCC, which was inked last year.

“UCC is one of the leading universities in Ireland and we’re delighted to call them our partner,” said Prof Dr Ooi Keng Boon who is dean of UCSI’s Faculty of Business and Information Science, under which the School of IT is under.

“We are currently looking into international degree pathways and articulations, and I’m confident that together, we’ll be able to offer the best in education to our students, not only in computing, which UCC is well-known for, but in other fields as well,” said Prof Ooi.

Earlier this year, Shin Nay Lin became the first UCSI student to be awarded UCC’s prestigious George Boole Merit Scholarship worth €11,000 (RM50,100) to pursue her Master’s in Computing Science. Dr Manning was on the panel that reviewed her scholarship application.

“We receive a lot of submissions from students around the world but Nay Lin’s really stood out because of her grades and extra-curricular achievements,” he said.

“I’m really proud to study at UCC,” said Nay Lin, who recently graduated with first class honours in mobile computing.

She is also a recipient of the UCSI University Trust scholarship and aspires to run an IT training centre for underprivileged teenagers in Myanmar, where she comes from.

Dr Manning’s guest lecture is the second in a series of public seminars coordinated by UCSI’s School of IT for the new semester which started in September.

The inaugural session featured Dr Suresh Ramasamy, former Head of Information and Cyber Security at Digi Telecommunications.

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