What big ears you have!

Soon we’ll be able to say so to an electronic counterpart and even hear reply
To look into the future of high-tech, I went to United Institute of information science under Belarus National Academy of science.

— 45 years ago Minsk computing machine works released first computer of “Minsk” series. At that time computers were designed for specific jobs. Today’s computers allow to perform testing right during the development stage, which saves huge funds, — says Prof. Alexander Krot. — Due to information technology we can see even what in principle can’t be seen with human eye. In this case computer simulated airflow, which helped us in finding the cause of fault. Modern computers find application in most diverse realms. For example, one of our projects is aimed at developing a human face recognition system for access control. A system of this kind will eliminate unauthorized access. Furthermore, we continue development of a speech recognition system. Formerly, a PC could just vocalize given text. And soon it will be possible to throw keyboards away, as computers will execute specific spoken commands.

— Moreover, our Institute performs application study and development for Belarusian industry, healthcare and for Ministry of emergencies. We emulate emergency situations and predict direction and pitch of floods and other acts of nature. Even today we can ascertain diagnosis knowing electrocardiogram tracing signal.
Our institute performs application study and development for belarusian industry, healthcare and for ministry of emergencies...
If we go further, we will be able to emulate scenarios for certain diseases. Super computer “Skif” was the result of rapid development of information technologies. So far, we use it for finite element analysis of machine-building constructions, yet this computer provides even more ample opportunities.

— What will be future computers like, will scientists achieve the main objective and develop thinking machines?

— Any, even most perfect computer follow programs written by humans. Yet as early as in mid-20th century Norbert Wiener, “father of cybernetics”, considered thinking computers were possible. 10 years ago it seemed unrealizable to me and today I can say: yes, thinking machines designed following the principle of computation self-organization, can be created. The first steps in this direction were neuron networks, which copied structure of human nerve cells and fibers. If thinking machines appear some day, they will step in instead of man in many instances.

— And how will future computers look like?

— They are undoubtedly to look different: no keyboards, added sensor systems, i.e. “eyes and ears”. They will be probably able to move like robots and even recognize their owners: imagine — you come home and your PC turns on greeting you and offering its services.
While we plotted about “eyes and ears” for future computers, I noticed a group of young scientists at the opposite side of the lab, arguing and writing some formulas on a regular school blackboard.

— I asked to put this board here, —Alexander Krot replies before I ask. — Even most complicated machine cannot give you the joy of human socializing when you can argue, take advice and get white of chalk like a student.

by Tamara Zenina
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