Part time academic

As is possibly quite obvious from an earlier post, I am currently engaged in a course of part time graduate studies.

I’m going to ruminate somewhat on the why and the what here, primarily because I’d like to  improve my writing skills (and therefore need to write more often).

I’ve wanted to further my education and specialise my knowledge with post-graduate study since before I completed my undergraduate, yet it took me a few years to figure out which subset of Computer Science I would attempt to become an expert in. That story, however, would be a significant divergence at this point.

In short I’m studying on a part-time, distance learning, taught Masters program in Intelligent Systems (IS) with the Centre for Computational Intelligence (CCI) at De Montfort University (DMU).

This is essentially a graduate program in Artificial Intelligence (AI), for a definition of which I turn to one of the founders of the field:

“… the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by humans” – Marvin Minsky

and for a slightly longer definition I point interested readers to a definition from the Children’s Britannica by Dr Joanna J. Bryson and Dr Jeremy Wyatt.

Why AI? It’s a field I’ve been interested in since first studying a module in Soft Computing during my undergraduate.

The social scientist in me is intrigued by the idea of pure AI; creating artificial life, observing it grow and evolve, understanding how humans interact with it and how it interacts with humans, etc.

The pragmatist (and idealist) in me, however, is extremely intrigued by the application of computational intelligence techniques to augment the human condition. A future where humans can avoid the 3 D’s of robotics – tasks which are dangerous, dirty and dull.

Many examples of such life enhancing work exists. Originally I had thought to mention (and link to) a great many, but instead I’ve opted to mention only a few current projects I’ve read about recently:

It’s worth noting that I don’t believe the two notions of pure AI and applied AI to be contrary. Indeed it seems that many well respected practitioners work on both theoretical and applied elements of CI. I hope to write more on this in the future.

Why DMU and the CCI? Last autumn I took the free Stanford online AI class and had really enjoyed the fact that I could work through the class without being beholden to a strict schedule which might interfere with my 8-10 hour work days. I wanted to continue this with my further education.

With this in mind I did some research into available distance learning programs and the CCI offers a great course structure with interesting modules taught by a department with a strong publication record and experience of real-world applications of CI techniques.

How is the course so far? I’m a huge fan of the organisation and assessment, so far as I’ve experienced in the single module that I’ve completed this far. The course encourages reading papers and practical application of the techniques.

I can’t wait for the next term to start!