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    September 17, 2015

    #TechTalk September: preparing for the robot uprising

    TechTalk, for the uninitiated, is a monthly technology seminar hosted by KAT-O (Kick-Ass-Tech, Obviously) that highlights extraordinary developments in local science and technology and is presented by industry specialists.

    September’s seminar, which was hosted on Wednesday the 17th at 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town, focussed on the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and both its uses in every day life, and how eventually humankind as a species could interact with a sentience of an all-together different kind.

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    On display where the creations of students from Parklands College & Parklands Junior

    On display where the creations of students from Parklands College & Parklands Junior, who are presently participating in the National Robot Olympiad and will soon represent their school and country in Doha, Qatar.

    The students in question – who have been offered classes in Robotics from Grades 1 – 7 – demonstrated their unique Lego designs which aim to tackle world-wide problems; demonstrating creative solutions to robotic deep-sea diving and oyster retrieval, to waste collection.

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    Dirk Brand, a Masters student at Stellenbosch University, was the evening’s first speaker

    The first speaker for the evening was Dirk Brand, a Master’s student at Stellenbosch University who was responsible for the creation of a comment-quality sorting artificial intelligence programme originally intended for News24, prior to the network’s decision to remove comments all-together.

    Brand illustrated several key points behind machine learning – where an AI learns to associate words or articles with content or meaning (named vector-based learning), before delving in to his own thoughts on whether AI would ever eclipse humankind. Brand cited the usefulness of AI to tackle projects such as self-driving automobiles, but also cited the potential for misuse via bugs in code, or use by unethical owners.

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    James Saunders, a past Honours student who worked at the University of Cape Town’s Robotics Lab, was the evening’s second speaker

    The second speaker for the evening was James Saunders, a past Honours student who worked at the University of Cape Town’s Robotics Lab. Saunders outlined his thoughts on the rise and evolution of AI, and offered a different perspective, citing that an artificial intelligence would inherently grow to be a non-human intelligence centered around the use of sensors, metrics, and information that would work in symbiosis with humankind, rather than a human-like intelligence best exemplified in science fiction tropes, a la Terminator or I, Robot.

    TechTalk will be under brief hiatus in October, and will return in November. Tickets to both September’s #TechTalk and the Cape Town Maker Faire will be available from Quicket. For more information on #TechTalk, be sure to visit KAT-O, and read up on August’s TechTalk here!

     

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