Artificial intelligence and transdisciplinarity

One of the biggest advantages of working in the University is being a part of a network that encompasses different fields of knowledge.

Although the structure of the departments does not make contact easy, I have always strived to keep up with what my colleagues are doing in order to extend the limits of science.

In January 2012, one of our most recognized researchers, Eva Martín Del Valle, gave an inaugural lecture at the celebration of the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The topic of her lecture came from one question: From reductionism to holism in present science? In her conclusion, professor Martín Del Valle said that “the connections between disciplines, borders, interfaces, heterogeneities and strong gradient regions where a lot of entropy can be produced, understood in this context, they will increase the probability of generating new and valuable knowledge”. Transdisciplinary projects include the collaboration of researchers from different fields which apparently do not have any connection (in the traditional scheme of science), they are the ones that usually bring the most fructiferous results. In fact, many financing calls favor this type of synergies for creating transverse teams where the different areas of knowledge, visions and ways of working are summed up, multiplying the possibilities of obtaining novel and useful advances.

If we look at the field of computing which is traditionally associated with mathematics, this interdisciplinary connection is made very visible and necessary. The development of artificial intelligence (AI), apart from opening a new door of understanding, creating and relating with machines, the contributions made by other fields of knowledge, sustain a new model for relations between people and artificial systems. From the time Alan Turing presented his famous test on discerning between human and artificial intelligence, the artificial one has been developed not only on the basis of equations and mathematical models but also on the contributions made by philosophy and psychology. The basis and posterior development of the raised issue by this Englishman, have created the foundations of artificial intelligence, that fell out of with the model based on axioms and deductions giving an end to previous calculations to the computers, opening a passionate discussion which ponders on the very essence of the human being.

The Austrian, Heinz von Foerster, whose Sowing Seeds of Cybernetics have been converted into a classic that I am currently rereading, analyzes how reality is processes by the human mind, to later focus on the so-called phenomena of entropy. It is quite remarkable to see how the studies on cybernetics in the First or the Socond Order have a common use in the different disciplines, such as physics, biology, epistemology, logistics, philosophy, sociology and anthropology, influencing each other reciprocally.

One of the things that attracted my attention about this book is the debate it opens about the different names we have given to some elements and functions of the computers. For example, we use the term ´memory` for a device where data is stored, but this is a term that reflects the human ability to codify, store and recover information that they have previously been acquainted with. Computers do not remember anything; they collect data that is converted into information when processed. This is an anthropomorphic metaphor that invites us to analyse artificial intelligence from the perspective of language. 

All this makes me think about how computer scientists develop research projects that crystalize in their use of algorithms that which is used by the so-called social machines. Google, Facebook and Amazon are big businesses that owe a big part of their success to understanding the behavior of their users. Beyond the scientific challenge and technological development, the application of artificial intelligence uncovers the needs in the fields of law, security, not to mention marketing, which should all be resolved by other researchers. Another big debate that is currently raised is the industry 4.0 and automation of work. It is not possible not to draw out these questions from social sciences. Due to this food of changes that we experience because of the progress made, its impacts in terms of the orders of life and the necessity of redefining the role of humans with machines and autonomous systems. Who dares to doubt the importance of classical studies, of Trivium which sustains the critical thought? It is important to be aware of the importance of transdisciplinary research, form this holistic approach that some of our colleagues use and which tends not to be easy. We have to value teamwork and collaboration with scientists form different field of knowledge, and be able to strengthen ourselves by summing up our potential to those that form part of our University. Our future depends on it.

Juan Manuel Corchado

Full Professor in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, Department of Computer Science and Automation, University of Salamanca, Spain.


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