A chat with the expert: Luca Gambardella

(photo credits: Andrea Rizzoli)
(photo credits: Andrea Rizzoli)

Institutional Communication Service

11 November 2019

The series of talks “Quattro chiacchiere con l’esperto”, organised by USI Ideatorio Cadro, continues with Luca Gambardella, Director of Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence USI-SUPSI. An informal chat with the expert about the human brain vs artificial intelligence.  

Computer scientist Luca Gambardella is the Director of Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (USI-SUPSI), for which he began working in 1988. It was here that his academic career began. His first study was: the search for algorithms inspired by the behavior of ants to solve complex problems in transportation and logistics.

After more than thirty years of experience in artificial intelligence (AI) research, Gambardella will answer the questions of the general public, exploring with them two contrasting kind of brains: the human and the artificial. The first is described by Gambardella as "a small box, wonderful and mysterious, that contains our ability to reason, learn, feel emotions, love, remember our history and reflect on ourselves". Unlike the machine, which uses numbers and symbols: "as computer scientists, we have taken inspiration from the human brain and have created artificial brains that show interesting and sometimes surprising features". A sort of training then, which leads the artificial brain, after being submitted a series of examples, to generate by itself the corresponding program. In short, learn. But can these artificial brains be considered on the same level as the human brain? This will be the focus of the talk at L’ideatorio.

As Prof. Gambardella explains in his courses held at USI and SUPSI, Artificial Intelligence has been a part of our daily lives for a long time. Let us take for example some translation platforms like DeepL: “to make it short, all that was needed to make it function was to submit to a machine a text in the original language and its translation.. and there you had it” explains Gambardella.

The first song entirely composed by AI (music and lyrics) was also recently released. According to Gambardella we are facing a new surprising achievement which naturally poses some questions. The music produced by AI is in fact generated automatically from samples and processed, "without having to explain in details to the artificial brain what it means to play music and write lyrics. Is it acurate to talk about "creative machines? " “If we do not care about the process through which the song is written, which is clearly different for humans and machines, than we can talk about artificial creativity”. The AI takes into consideration important aspects such as: do we like hearing and do we appreciate its music? Has qualilty music been produced?

There are many examples and questions that arise when talking about artificial intelligence, and when entering a world made of algorithms. Gambardella has been part of this universe of numbers since the age of 16 when, together with his father, he attended a course in basic, one of the first commercial programming languages. From the desire to help his father in his new initiative he decided to specialise in the field by enrolling at the Faculty of Information Sciences in Pisa. There, his passion for algorithms and for lisp, the main language used in AI, was born.