Machines have for centuries worked for humankind, but can they also think for us? It seems they can, and this amazing but potentially frightening development is called artificial (or machine) intelligence (AI). Unlike natural human or animal intelligence, AI devices survey their surroundings and take aim at a target, imitating human learning, problem solving and carrying out other types of cognitive functions.
AI goes back to fictional works such as Frankenstein. But as early as 1956 at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, AI became an academic discipline. Since then, research into the field has gone very far to include planning, learning, language processing, perception, the ability to move objects and reasoning. AI today is based on mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, information engineering and other fields.
While the study of human reasoning and AI, whose basic element is usually a set of mathematical instructions called algorithms, can make our lives easier. many people fear it because they think it might make their jobs obsolete. But that fear has not stopped industry and academia from trying to progress in the field, as in medical diagnosis, logistics, data mining and other fields. A “thinking” computer even managed some 20 years ago to beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
Now that Israel’s Mobileye company and others around the world are trying to develop autonomous vehicles, AI is becoming more tangible to the general public. But there are still serious bugs in such vehicles, as shown by some fatal accidents, and AI computers are still unable to figure out what pedestrians or drivers who are busy with their smartphone actually plan to do.
Israel – and particularly the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa – is among the leaders in AI research. The Technion and the Intel Corporation (based in California, a giant company that produces most of the semiconductor chips in the world’s computers) have just inaugurated a joint Center for Artificial Intelligence. The center, located in Haifa, will advance research in AI fields and collaboration between Technion and Intel researchers.
Intel’s Dr. Michael Mayberry, chief technology officer, and Naveen Rao, corporate vice president and general manager of the Artificial Intelligence Products Group, represented Intel at the inauguration of the new AI Center. Prof. Boaz Golany, vice president for External Relations and Resource Development, Prof. Wayne Kaplan, executive vice president for Research, Prof. Nahum Shimkin, dean of the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Prof. Dan Geiger, dean of the Computer Science Department and Prof. Carmel Domshlak, Dean of the William Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, represented the Technion.
Already, CSRankings – a metrics-based ranking of leading computer science institutions around the world – has already named the Technion as eighth in the world in AI, after Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, Cornell University, Tsinghua University, Peking University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley. This is quite an achievement.
Prof. Shie Mannor from the Technion’s Viterbi Faculty of Electrical Engineering will head the Center. “The Technion is the leading university in Israel in the field of artificial intelligence and is one of the top ten universities in the world in the field,” Mannor said. “The Technion has about 20 faculty members whose main field of research is computational learning and another 40 researchers are working in related fields. The majority of the researchers come from the Faculty of Computer Science, the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, and some of them are from other faculties such as Medicine and Biology.”
Intel and the Technion have maintained close ties for many years. Nine years ago, Intel awarded the Technion the Intel Award in recognition of the university, whose graduates were the founding nucleus of the company’s branch established in Haifa in 1974. To date, Intel supports some of Technion’s labs and funds many scholarships for students at the university, including specifically supporting outstanding students in electrical engineering and computer science.
As part of this collaboration with Intel, Mannor added, the company will support research projects of Technion faculty members engaged in computational learning and artificial intelligence together with Intel researchers. The research will cover a variety of areas, including natural language processing, deep learning and hardware optimization for different learning algorithms.”
Intel-Israel CEO Yaniv Garty added, “We are proud of the cooperation with the Technion, which will promote Israeli technology and Intel’s technological leadership in the field of artificial intelligence. Intel is a leader in this field, and the research center will help further advance AI innovation. I have no doubt that we will achieve breakthroughs that will lead to significant developments in the coming years. Intel has always maintained a close cooperation with Israeli academia, which has included many contributions, support of teaching programs, scholarships for outstanding students, joint research and more,” he said.
Prof. Boaz Golany, vice president for external relations and resource development noted: “The Technion intends to expand its activities in the fields of machine learning and intelligent technology in the next few years and the joint activity with Intel is one of the first steps in this direction. We are working to raise unprecedented resources to support basic research in the field and in parallel, to work with leading companies such as Intel to promote applications in a wide range of fields including health care, autonomous vehicles, smart environments, home and industrial robots and more.”