2015 lecture

2015 lecture

by Daniel Price

Professor Steve Furber - 19 March, London

The 2015 lecture was delivered by Professor Steve Furber CBE FRS FREng, University of Manchester. The lecture took place on 19 March 2015 at The Royal Society in London. This evening event also featured contributions from Prof Furber's colleagues past and present, including Simon Segars, CEO of ARM, Andy Hopper CBE FRS FREng FIET, Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge, Carole Goble CBE FREng FBCS CITP, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester and Prof Mike Wooldridge FBCS, Head of Computer Science at the University of Oxford.

Introduction - featuring Prof Jeff Magee, Prof Andy Hopper and Simon Segars

 Main lecture - Prof Steve Furber

 Q&A - featuring Prof Carole Goble, Prof Mike Wooldridge


Computers and brains

Just two years after the world's first stored program ran its first program at Manchester in 1948, Alan Turing published his seminal paper on "Computing Machinery and Intelligence". The paper opens with the words: I propose to consider the question, "Can machines think?". Turing then goes on to explore this question through what he calls "The Imitation Game", but which subsequent generations simply call "The Turing Test".

Despite spectacular progress in the performance and efficiency of machines since Turing's time, we have yet to see any convincing demonstration of a machine that can pass his test. This would have surprised Turing - he believed that all that would be required was more memory. Although cognitive systems are beginning to display impressive environmental awareness, they do not come close to the sort of "thinking" that Turing had in mind.

My take on the problems with true artificial intelligence are that we still really haven't worked out what natural intelligence is. Until we do, all discussion of machine intelligence and "the singularity" are specious. Based on this view, we need to return to the source of natural intelligence, the human brain. The SpiNNaker project has been 15 years in conception and 8 years in construction, but is now ready to contribute to the growing global community (exemplified by the EU Human Brain Project) that is aiming to deploy the vast computing resources now available to us to accelerate our understanding of the brain, with the ultimate goal of understanding the information processing principles at work in natural intelligence.

About the speakers

Professor Steve Furber CBE FRS FREng

Steve Furber CBE FRS FREng is ICL Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, UK. After completing a BA in mathematics and a PhD in aerodynamics at the University of Cambridge, UK, he spent the 1980s at Acorn Computers, where he was a principal designer of the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor. Over 50 billion variants of the ARM processor have since been manufactured, powering much of the world's mobile and embedded computing. He moved to the ICL Chair at Manchester in 1990 where he leads research into asynchronous and low-power systems and, more recently, neural systems engineering, where the SpiNNaker project is delivering a computer incorporating a million ARM processors optimised for brain modelling applications.

Simon Segars

Simon Segars was appointed chief executive officer in July 2013. He was previously ARM’s president. 

Simon joined ARM in 1991 and became a member of the Board in 2005. His previous roles at ARM have included executive vice president of the processor and physical IP divisions. He also held the role of executive vice president within the departments of engineering, worldwide sales and business development. 

Simon was instrumental in the development of early ARM CPU products such as the ARM7™ and ARM9™ families. Simon holds numerous patents in the field of embedded CPU architectures.

Professor Andy Hopper CBE FRS FREng FIET

Andy Hopper CBE FRS FREng FIET is Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge and Head of Department of the Computer Laboratory. His research interests include computer networking, pervasive and sensor-driven computing, and using computers to ensure the sustainability of the planet.

Andy Hopper has co-founded over a dozen spin-outs and start-ups, three of which floated on stock markets. He is Chairman of RealVNC Group and Ubisense plc and was a Director of Acorn Computer during 1979-85 and 1996-99. He is a past President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Professor Carole Goble CBE FREng FBCS CITP

Carole Goble is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. In 2001 she established and co-direct myGrid a sub-group of Information Management Group, which focuses on data intensive e-Science. The group ranges from theory to practice, translating state of the art techniques in semantic web, distributed computing, data management and social computing into software and resources widely used by scientists from many different communities. The team is made up of scientific informaticians, computer science researchers and software engineers. They collaborate with scientists world-wide, from many disciplines: Life Sciences, Biodiversity, Astronomy, Chemistry, Health informatics, Social Science and Digital Libraries.

2010 co-founded the Software Sustainability Institute; 2014 deputy director EU ESFRI ELIXIR UK Node