Barbara Liskov is an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she is a member of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She has spent the past forty or so years finding and describing new ways to make computer programs work better. In addition to many other projects, she currently works on writing programs that make data safer. Dr. Liskov … Continue reading An interview with Professor Barbara Liskov, 2008 recipient of the Turing Award
Can we build a functional brain using computers? In order to answer that question, we need to know how the brain is built in nature. The human brain is composed of more than 10 billion cells called neurons that can be electrically activated upon stimulation. Neurons produce special proteins called ion channels that are inserted in their cell membranes. These channels allow ions (i.e., electrically … Continue reading Modeling the brain with computers
Cars that drive themselves. A program that trounces the best human players at Jeopardy! A machine that defeats the world champion at chess. It would seem that the quest to create human-level artificial intelligence (AI) is making astounding progress, and the end is in sight. But is it? This year, Google’s self-driving car was granted a special license plate by the State of Nevada, allowing … Continue reading Artificial intelligence: Will computers pass the Turing test by 2029? Does it matter?
“Bruce, did you know that it was an openly gay Englishman who was as responsible as any man for winning the Second World War? His name was Alan Turing and he cracked the Germans’ Enigma code so the Allies knew in advance what the Nazis were going to do – and when the war was over he committed suicide he was so hounded for being … Continue reading Difficult to decode: Alan Turing’s life and its implications
Alan Turing’s revolutionary ideas about computation helped launch the field of cognitive science. One of his major contributions to cognitive science was the idea of a Turing machine, a hypothetical contraption capable of carrying out any algorithm or mechanical procedure using input and output symbols. Could the human mind be considered a kind of organic Turing machine? Could a machine be created that simulates a … Continue reading Cognitive neuroscience: Connecting neuroimaging and neural nets
— If you believe Hollywood’s interpretation, the advent of intelligent robots rarely ends well for mankind. Movies like The Matrix, Terminator, and I, Robot all depict robots as quite intelligent, capable, and horrifyingly destructive machines that either aim to enslave us, or worse, bring about the extinction of the human race. In these cinematic examples, robots are rarely helpful or friendly (with the occasional exceptions like Wall-E or R2-D2). Intelligent robots with the capacity to take over the world are fine as long as they remain in the realm of science fiction. But are highly capable robots confined to the silver screen? When you read the news and see titles like “Evolving robots learn to lie to each other,” “Tiny robots are ready to spy on us,” “Are we being watched by flying robotic insects?,” “A real-life robotic avatar turns you into a machine,” or consider that IBM’s Watson can handily defeat humans on Jeopardy, you might think that it’s time to panic. Or you may wonder what exactly all those reckless scientists are thinking – haven’t they seen the movies? Why don’t they stop before it’s too late? Continue reading Is the Robot Apocalypse Just Around the Corner?
— In the last decade or so, various fields with the suffix –omics have risen in biological and biomedical sciences. The oldest and most well-known is genomics, the high throughput study of all the genes in the genome. Together with other emerging fields such as transcriptomics, proteomics and connectomics, culturomics is taking its place in the omics family. Continue reading Computing Culture: The Rise of Culturomics
–You are most likely reading this article on a computer, and as you scroll down the page, you may decide to briefly switch over to Facebook or Twitter to type a quick status update. We usually do not stop to think that the ease with which we can do this is due to the seamless flow of charged electrons in our computers. Thus far, utilizing charged electrons to make computers has been endlessly fruitful, allowing us to build smaller and faster computer chips. Unfortunately, we cannot continue improving technology simply by scaling down to smaller sizes because we will eventually reach atomic sizes where our devices will no longer function. As we look ahead into the not-too-distant future, we will need to explore new, innovative technologies that go beyond utilizing electron charge – one such exciting new direction is the field of spintronics. Continue reading For more energy-efficient and higher-capacity computers, think spintronics!