Thursday, October 30, 2014

With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon

Well that's what Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has just warned us of in a lengthy talk to MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium. Here's a quote: "I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out."
   By coincidence yesterday whilst watching a doco called Los Angeles Plays Itself I noted a comment in the film: "Robots won't be sexy and dangerous, they'll be boring and efficient - and take our jobs" that rather chimes with Musk's thoughts.
You can watch his entire talk below.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Unveiling of Display on “Computer Graphics in 1984”

You may have missed this and have you haven't visited our Computer History Displays recently then perhaps you should return. On 25th August our Computer Science Department inaugurated the latest addition to its Computer History Displays - the new display in the 5th-floor lobby being devoted to computers & graphics. The main items in the new display are Computer Aided Design machines preserved by our Engineering Faculty, - a Tektronix 40xx terminal, an IBM 5080 CAD display and its replacement, an IBM RS6000, and a large plotter. The display was unveiled by Professor Gordon Mallinson from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. 
   Although most of the equipment is for CAD, the display panel draws on the fact that the 5080 was installed in 1984 to highlight that year as being a turning point in computing history, as it saw the introduction of graphical computer interfaces with the Apple Macintosh. This was the first time that a WIMPs system (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) was available to the general public, although “clunky” by today’s standards. This was also the beginning of user-defined fonts, leading to the plethora of brilliant designs available today, such as the font McCahon by Luke Wood of Canterbury University:



Thursday, October 16, 2014

The rise of the Bots: Robots, Surgeons and Disruptive Technology

If you're in Auckland next Wednesday evening (22nd Ocotober) you might be interested in attending a free public lecture by Dr Catherine Mohr titled "The rise of the Bots: Robots, Surgeons and Disruptive Technology." Surgery has been changing rapidly in the last 10 years with the advent of surgical robots and the increase in minimally invasive surgical techniques. Dr Catherine Mohr will talk about these changes in surgical practice, the technologies that underlie them, and what we might see in the future as new technologies such as earlier diagnostics, advanced imaging and regenerative medicine bring disruptive changes to healthcare around the world.
Dr Mohr is Vice President of Medical Research at Intuitive Surgical, where she evaluates new technologies for incorporation into the next generation of surgical robots. She also is a consulting Assistant Professor in the department of Surgery at Stanford School of Medicine and on the Medicine and Robotics Faculty at Singularity University. A frequent speaker on the topics of surgical robotics, innovation and the importance of science,at national and international conferences, she is also the author of numerous scientific publications and the recipient of multiple awards. You can get a ticket for the lecture here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In praise of... noise cancelling headphones

I've just come back from a trip to Europe involving two 24 hour plus air flights from and back to New Zealand. I recently treated myself to a pair of Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones. I don't usually promote products on this blog but I have to say I can't praise these headphones highly enough. Bose came up with the idea for noise cancelling headphones and they are issued to pilots and as standard in business class on many airlines. I would recommend that if you fly often you must invest in a pair. I finished each 24 hour flight (yes New Zealand is a long way from the rest of the world) feeling much more relaxed because I never heard that constant engine roar. I just heard the movies, my music or near silence. I really believe I left each flight much more rested than previously. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The blog is back - with IDEAS

The blogger lecturing in Scotland
I'm back from three weeks in Europe: attending a conference in Cork and visiting several Scottish universities (Napier, Robert Gordon, and Abertay). I was hosted in Scotland by Prof. Susan Craw of the IDEAS Research Institute. In paprticular they have some very interesting research projects in Smart Information Systems, which would translate well into New Zealand. Whist in Aberdeen I also gave a public lecture on Alan Turing and the Artificial Brain that was very well attended.

Friday, September 19, 2014

On Vacation

Well not strictly speaking a holiday, but I'm flying to the UK this evening and after spending a few days with family I'm going to Cork in Ireland for the 22nd International Conference on Case-Based Reasoning and then spending some time in Scotland visiting Edinburgh University, Napier University, Robert Gordon University and Abertay University funded by a visiting fellowship from The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance. As a consequence of travelling this blog will be having a bit of a holiday. Please check back mid October - Kia Ora.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What % of STEM Should Be Computer Science?


We keep hearing in the media how many job vacancies there are for computer scientists and how the critical shortage is restricting the growth of many companies. Every one is agreed that we need more people with computing skills. This article from code.org provides an interesting insight into this skills shortage and offers some solutions.