firstname.lastname@example.org -- AIAI, University of Edinburgh
~What is your particular speciality in Artificial Intelligence?
AI Planning and Process Management
~Why did you choose a career in AI research / development?
I wanted to be a scientist from my Junior school days (1959), and got
interested in computers during my secondary school years(1966-8).
When going to University, I wanted to work on the software aspects
of computing and chose one of the two University courses at the time that
did this (Lancaster, the other possible was Essex). My teachers there
started a new course in Artificila Inteligence and had contacts with teh
Edinburgh AI Department. I started work on an undergraduate project on
search methods and planning in 1971. This involved me in talking woth
prof. Donald Michie in Edinburgh who was working in that area. He invited
me to join him as a Ph.D student and things carried on from there.
~What is the AI system you are researching/developing designed for?
To support command, planning and plan execution within organisations such
businesses for workflow support and manufacturing scheudling, etc.
European Space Agency for assembly, integration and test of spacecraft
such as ERS-1 and the Ariane rocket payload bay
US Air Force for Command and Control
UK Search and Rescue Coordinmation Support
~What approaches are you using in your research / development ?
Rich representations of activities and processes which are based
in a model of the organisation and the roles of the agents
(computer and human) involved in the processes
An agenda-based workflow architecture (called O-Plan) which allows for
the integraytion of knowledge-based systems techniques, constraint
management methods, and search.
~What do you see as some fundemental ways that AI in general will impact people's lives in the future?
Yes, AI methods (in particular knowledge-based systems) wil allow us
make much better use of information in support of the tasks we wish to
carry out, and in ways in which the processes involved wil be more
transparent, open and explainable. This will profoundly affect the ways
in which verification of compliance with standards, with legislation,
with safety rules and so on will be possible, and be seen to be possible
by individuals, organisations and governments.
~What Do you think AI tecnology will be like in 10 years? in 20? In 50?
10: many systems will call their methods AI, when they really mean
advanced computing methods. There will be some very advanced
applcations to support certian tasks, where models can be prepared
and used. They will tend to be in high value low volume
applications. The internet and its demands for improved task and
information management will be a driver where many people outside
of these specialist industries will make early use of AI methods.
20-50: progressivly greater integration via the use of more far reaching
models. Expert advisory systems that can be personally tailored.
Major impact on many "middle-men" type industries such
agents, general practitioner doctors, etc.
~Do you think Computers will ever be able to think and talk like humans?
~What is most exciting part of AI that encourages you stay in the field?
The field is only just seriously beginning in my view - and its poised
for a massive development. There are very many more people involved
AI today than was the case even 15 years ago. The successes of AI
to date (and only some are widely recognised) have formed a solid
basis for realistic explitation and excellent prospects for future
You will see deep space probes with advanced automation and AI travel
out from our planet, yu wil see autonomous sea and land vehicles
epxloring parts of our own planet too inhospitable for man to travel
there. You will be able to have a personal assistant or co-worker who
will work alongside you, get to know your tasks, processes and
preferences. It will do those things you wish you had time to do
yourself but which are never at the top of your agenda. The same system
will adapt itself to becoming an active aid as you and your family age.
Someday, it might even be able to draft an answer to an email message
like this one, as it will know the subject well enough.
~What subjects would you encourage high-school level students to take, who
are interested in AI?
Computing is only a part of AI. Look to subjects that encourage problem
solving, modelling and undersatnding other people's skills and their
roles. Computing, Maths (especially Logic), English (especially
Grammar), Psychology are topics that I would suggest. Only some of
which I studied at school and in my first degree at University. I much
regret not having a more solid basis in language grammar for example.
I wish you well with your studies and this survey. I remember very well
my own school projects on stroboscopic photography of gymnasts, on
the industries of West Yorkshire (where I come from) and on decay in
radioactive materials. I keep some of the records of those experiments
and have fond memories of the teachers who supported me in my early
school days. I hope you have as much fun as I did.
- Professor of Knowledge-Based Systems, University of Edinburgh
- Technical Director of Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute
- B.A. (Hons.) Computer Studies, First Class, Lancaster University
- Ph.D. Machine Intelligence, University of Edinburgh
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