The art of intelligent coding
Artificial Intelligence is changing lives now. It’s not locked within the construct of a science fiction movie.
There are numerous advantages of AI. It’s being used in hospitals with automatic ordering of pharmaceuticals, driverless tractors on farms and parcel delivery. Chatbots are used in banks to handle customer queries regarding administrative questions. There are also some surprising avenues with robots helping autistic children, and also helping children learn new languages.
While AI comes in many digital-guises, there are exceptional people behind the coding and algorithms making AI click. For now.
Natalie Rens is at the centre of AI in Brisbane, she’s reaching out to businesses, and the community, to educate on the benefits of artificial intelligence. The AI specialist for the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur (OQCE) has even co-founded the Brisbane AI meetup. Rens co-founded the enterprising meetup with Dr Juxi Leitner, Robotics and AI researcher. Launched in February this year, Brisbane AI was a project inspired after Rens visited Silicon Valley in 2016 and saw how AI was impacting companies overseas.
While in Silicon Valley, Rens says she was “fascinated by the use of AI experimentation with social robots”. For example, picture a shy student from a different country, learning a new language in a new school. The robot would teach the new language, and work with the child, to help the child gain confidence and participate in their new classroom.
There are also robots working with special-needs children. “You can use emotion recognition so you can aid people who have autism”. People on the spectrum find social interactions quite challenging and “having something they can practice with is quite good”.
While AI is surging ahead overseas, Rens says sometimes it’s frustrating in Australia “because of the attitude towards innovation here”. She says, “In Silicon Valley everyone is pitching these ideas of changing the world. It’s a given, to do something completely revolutionary.” In Australia it’s a different environment. It’s a different mentality, “you can see how fast other countries are moving ahead and here it’s like tugging at everyone’s sleeves to get them to be on the same page.”
People are aware of AI and the technology, but if you haven’t come from that technical background it can be tough. There should be more public education and training about what AI is and its future opportunities. “I talk to companies about how they can use AI. I would also like to set up programs like education for kids, so the next generation comes in ready to go.” The biggest thing is making it easily accessible for people. “Definitely the government can play a role in providing funding for these programs.” There also needs to be investment into the skills transitioning needed within companies. “It’s up to companies to have that foresight.”
If you see yourself transitioning into the world of AI there are literally thousands of resources online. The free online course Brisbane AI recommends is fast.ai. It’s a seven-week course “starting from a practical viewpoint and focuses on coding”. Run by Jeremy Howard and Rachel Thomas it’s designed for anyone with at least one year of coding experience, and some memory of high-school math.
AI is an area where “everyone is learning constantly”. The best thing an AI enthusiast can do is head to the AI groups. Brisbane AI hosts high level events which cover a range of topics. The meetup now has more than 1,400 members. “It’s exciting bringing everyone together,” she says. There’s “a lot of good talent here in Queensland and we’re giving them an avenue to learn.”
If you want to learn more, Codebots is the next exciting event launch on the Brisbane AI calendar. It’s happening on 7 December with the Beta coming out as a slow release next year. Codebots co-founder, Dr Eban Escott, is “a phenomenal person”, who wants to make it as easy as possible to achieve what you want in your code. The Codebot will write about 92% or higher of code for you.
Whether you’re working on or with robots, coding to create algorithms is the key to AI. Rens believes algorithm advancement is going to be massive. “We’re going to have more engagement as a result of algorithm advancement. Instead of doing menial tasks, we will be able to use our human skills more… Our empathy, social interaction and creativity, rather than being tethered to a computer like we tend to be today.”