RIYADH: A senior academic at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology said he believes the KAUST AI initiative will contribute to a new golden age for science — similar to the Islamic Golden Age, when the Middle East led the world in science and technology.

Artificial intelligence is indeed vital to society, said Juergen Schmidhuber, director of the Artificial Intelligence Initiative at KAUST, and professor of computer science. Schmidhuber was speaking at the launch of the 2023 Artificial Intelligence Summer Program at KAUST Academy.

The program is a collaboration between the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence and King Abdullah University, and will, according to the organizers, “serve as a springboard to advance research and development in the field of artificial intelligence, as well as an opportunity for researchers to expand their knowledge about the future of artificial intelligence.”

Jurgen SchmidhuberDirector of the Artificial Intelligence Initiative at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

KAUST Academy will host two summer schools as part of its Artificial Intelligence Summer Program led by Sultan Al Barakati. One is for high school students and the other is for undergraduate students in Saudi Arabia.

“Apart from AI, summer schools include a range of curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities, including lessons in applied mathematics, science writing, presentation skills, leadership, and entrepreneurship,” said Schmidhuber.

He added that such training has already seen a number of Saudi youth obtain job opportunities in major companies. “The young Saudis trained by KAUST are already making an impact in the Kingdom,” he said. Our graduates have secured positions in top institutions such as Aramco, SDAIA and the Ministry of Information. Our students have also been selected for postgraduate studies at some of the best schools in the world.”

KAUST is now the university with the greatest influence per faculty, Schmidhuber claimed, ahead of the usual suspects like Caltech and Princeton.

The kingdom has very ambitious projects that will involve a lot of artificial intelligence. (The leadership) at KAUST realizes that artificial intelligence will change everything, and strongly supports artificial intelligence research, and convinced me to come here.”

The kingdom has very ambitious projects that will involve a lot of artificial intelligence. The KAUST leadership understands that AI will change everything, and strongly supports AI research, and convinced me to come here.

Jurgen SchmidhuberDirector of the Artificial Intelligence Initiative at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Schmidhuber says AI is vital to today’s society, noting that the technology he helped develop is proven and used by billions of people every day.

“For example, since the mid-2010s, artificial neural networks developed in my labs have been running on billions of smartphones, used billions of times every day,” he said. “For example, Facebook’s automatic translation, Google’s speech recognition, Google Translate, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa.”

He said that the German scientist’s admiration for technology and development began at the age of 15, and his advice to students and researchers is to learn the basics of mathematics and science and to be part of the history of technology.

“As a teenager in the 1970s, my goal was to build a machine that could learn and improve on its own, become smarter than me during my lifetime, limited only by the limitations of computing and physics, and achieve superintelligence through iterative self-improvement.”

Schmidhuber’s work has been recognized internationally and he has been called the “Father of Modern Artificial Intelligence” by the media.

He was awarded the International Neural Network Society’s Helmholtz Prize in 2013, and the IEEE Computational Intelligence Society’s Neural Network Pioneers Award in 2016 for “pioneering contributions to deep learning and neural networks”.

“We’ve made a lot of progress since then,” said Schmidhuber, “but there’s still work to be done. My advice is: learn the basics of mathematics, physics, computer science, and artificial intelligence, and be part of history by helping achieve the ultimate goal! I envy the youth of today.” A little bit, because they will have more time than me to enjoy the enormous benefits of artificial intelligence.

Recent advances in technology have shown the proven efficacy of artificial intelligence, Schmidhuber said, adding that it will eventually transform all aspects of our civilization.

“In fact, it is getting more and more difficult to find fields that are not affected by AI,” he said. Every five years, computers become ten times cheaper. A naive extrapolation of this exponential trend predicts that the twenty-first century will see cheap computers with a thousand times the raw computational power of all human brains combined. And soon there will be… trillions of these devices.

“Almost all intelligence will be outside of human brains. Everything will change. This is more than just another industrial revolution. This is something new that will eventually transcend humanity and even biology.” “It is an honor to witness its beginnings, and to contribute something to it.”

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