School News

FIS spotlights Artificial Intelligence
Posted 21/10/2019 14:42

Learning is at the core of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Machines are now able to act as students that sense and comprehend their environment, take appropriate actions and learn from their experiences. 

In September, both students and parents at FIS were given an opportunity to learn more about the fascinating world of AI through a series of events, including a middle school assembly, “break out” sessions for Upper School students, and an evening keynote presentation and panel discussion with noted AI expert, Bart de Witte, and other FIS community experts. The various sessions were thoughtfully planned out and coordinated by FIS parent and board member, Dr. James Beaty; FIS parent, Andreas Dietrich; and FIS Director of ICT, Gareth Brewster.

The two-hour evening program was co-facilitated by Dr. Beaty and Zofia B., a Grade 11 student, and began with a keynote speech from Mr. de Witte, who asserted, “The future is already here!” Mr. de Witte, who is a global speaker on AI and faculty member at the University of Applied Sciences in Business Administration Zurich, laid the foundation for the evening with a few basic points about AI. “Data is the new natural resource,” he said. “And it is growing exponentially.” He explained that AI-capable machines are now able to independently learn by identifying patterns in very large amounts of data.

Mr. de Witte introduced the concept of the Centaur, a mythological Greek creature made up of half-man and half-horse, to illustrate the potential for collaboration. “Humans have special skills which machines do not…imagination and compassion, for instance," he said. He explained that the Centaur model suggests a hybrid entity whereby combining human and computer is superior to each working independently. 

During the panel discussion, Mr. de Witte was also asked about the role privacy plays in AI now and in the future. He responded, “Privacy is important, but in the future it will be hard to have privacy.” Panelist Dr. Bettina Rowlands, an FIS parent and expert on product innovation of consumer goods added, “Society needs to decide what core values we will not give up."

Toward the end of the evening, FIS parent and panelist, Dr. Murat Ünal, reminded the audience that AI should be viewed as a tool, an assistant or a peer. “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, and we haven’t even figured out how this complex network is connected,” he said. “Machines can’t replace us. AI will simply empower us to do better.”  

Story contribution by FIS parent, Emmett Kelly 

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