Experts' Take On Real Possibilities For Artificial Intelligence

26 July 2011

Dr Richard Hill

Dr Richard Hill, Head of Subject in the University's School of Computing and Mathematics, is General Chair of the ICCS 2011 conference.

There's already a vast amount of digital information stored in the world which might contain new and better approaches to the way we run public services, hospitals, scientific research and many other things.

Dr Richard Hill.

The future uses for computers in how we run governments, businesses, scientific research, crimefighting, the arts, healthcare and many other activities are being debated at a major conference at the University of Derby.

Educating children to live in a digital world, gene therapy, 'smart homes' of the future and businesses' use of social media such as Twitter are among the presentations scheduled for the 19th International Conference on Conceptual Structures (ICCS 2011); being held at the University's Kedleston Road site throughout this week (July 25-29).

'Conceptual structures' are a highly efficient way of organising large blocks of information in a computer. This information could relate to activities as varied as dispensing hospital drugs, building houses or stopping particular kinds of crime.

The computer can sift through different options using what it's 'learnt' from the blocks of information - in a way that mimics human thinking but is much faster - to come up with well reasoned new ideas to tackle a given problem.

Global computing giant IBM ran the first conference on conceptual structures almost 20 years ago, bringing global experts together to discuss digital information's increasing influence on our lives and what it holds for the future. Since then annual conferences have been held in Asia, Australia, and North America; and now Derby.

Around 50 people including computer scientists, linguists and representatives from major companies such as Boeing, BT, consultancy Capgemini UK and SAP software will be in attendance from the UK, Europe, America, India, Malaysia and China.

Dr Richard Hill, Head of Subject in the School of Computing and Mathematics at the University of Derby, is General Chair of the conference, which has been jointly organised with Sheffield Hallam University.

He said: "The idea of 'artificial intelligence', creating a computer that thinks like a human brain does, has been around a long time.

"The difficulty is in getting the computer to understand the real world, with all its different causes and effects, the way we do and also translating what we know about human behaviour into information, or 'data structures', the computer can accept and use.

"Conceptual structures overcome these problems by breaking up the information for the computer into blocks, each one representing a known idea or concept. Like a human brain, it can then find different and often surprising links between the blocks of information itself, to come up with alternative answers to a question.

"There's already a vast amount of digital information stored in the world which might contain new and better approaches to the way we run public services, hospitals, scientific research and many other things; if we could teach computers to reason in the way that human beings do."

As a little light relief from the conference its attendees will visit Derbyshire County Cricket Club's grounds in Chaddesden, Derby, on Wednesday (July 27) evening, for a tour of the ground and enjoy some gentle coaching from the club's cricketers.

For more information about the 19th International Conference on Conceptual Structures see www.derby.ac.uk/computing/iccs2011.

For further information please contact Press and PR Officer Sean Kirby on 01332 591891 or 07876 476103, or email s.kirby@derby.co.uk.

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